I’m folding laundry in my room. The kids are playing not-so-quietly. The TV is blaring. It’s the weekend so everyone is home and everything is noisy. I hear a scream that is full of air and sounds more like fear than like noise. Thump. All is silent. I run. At the bottom of the stairs is a little body, Timmy’s body. He isn’t moving. I run to his side my heart pounding with fear and concern and mind unable to think. My husband breaths for him, making his chest rise up and down. Someone calls an ambulance. He turns purple. Then blue. The ambulance comes, but we know it’s already too late.
4:45 – I wake up in tears and I’m trembling so much that I know it’s shaking the bed. It was just a dream, I tell myself, still feeling the missing piece of my heart from my nightmare. I try to slow my breathing to go back to sleep, but the fat, orange dog heard me wake up. She whimpers from her kennel. Let me out. Let me out. I get up and let the dogs outside and stop to listen to Timothy sleep, peacefully and still breathing.
5:37 – I look at the clock one last time before I fall asleep. The doorbell rings. I open the door to see a Moses basket on the porch with a note and a tiny, pink baby inside, wrapped up warm and tight. “I’m sorry.” It says.
6:15 – I wake up when a little one turns on the bathroom light and shuts the door. I roll over and pretend to sleep.
6:30 – Birds chirp. Not real ones. My alarm makes bird noises. When I was a child, there was a tree outside my bedroom window and every morning the birds would wake me up. It still works better than anything. I read the texts I got through the night.
6:45 – Sweetie’s alarm goes off. Reveille. We get up. I put uniforms in the dryer to fluff after being on the line and I head downstairs to let the dogs out again. Coffee. Lunches. Hair and teeth. I cuddle Timothy a little extra and peel an orange to hold him over till breakfast.
7:22 – I usher everyone out the door with hugs and kisses goodbye. I take a muffin for myself and hand one to Timmy, pour my coffee, and let the heat warm my hands and face. Laundry. Write down the recipe for dinner tonight. Watch cookie monster with the boy. Reheat my coffee and feed the fish.
9:25 – Reheat my coffee again. More laundry. I shower for long enough to get warm, then I pick the dress that makes me feel like a million bucks. I leave my hair down and let the natural curl do its thing. I give it some help, though, and when I’m done my hair is so big I look like a Texan belle. Concealer to hide the lack of sleep. Powder to hide the concealer. Mascara to hide the powder.
10:35 – I wash two tiny hands and one tiny face. “I do it.” He says when I start to get him dressed. We let the dogs outside. I catch myself in the mirror and rethink the dress. It’s so short and too snug. I think. I pretend it shrunk in the wash, but between you and me it’s my winter layer of fat. I wear it anyway because my jeans are dirty and everything else is covered with bleach stains or grease splatters.
11:00 – I load the boy in his car seat and we drive into the city for a lunch date with Sweetie. Driving gives me anxiety and the distance from here to there is my personal prison wall. Anxiety keeps me from going there and miles upon miles of nothing but sagebrush deters most people from coming here. What I wouldn’t give to shorten that distance! I stay on the back roads for as long as I can before pulling out onto the highway. Timmy babbles about orca whales the whole way. I stop, wait for an opening, and ease out. Just as I do, a highway patrol car flips around and gets behind me. My tongue goes numb and a metallic taste fills my mouth. My hands clench around the wheel and they sweat as I wait for his lights to start flashing. He speeds around me and pulls over the guy up ahead and not me. I should let out a deep, relieved breath but I can’t. I’m driving and I hate driving.
11:52 – I finally finish the 30-minute drive. I took the wrong exit – twice – and had to backtrack to get there. We go to the Asian restaurant he likes for sushi and miso soup. Timothy almost falls asleep at the table.
2:10 – I arrive home after a relatively easy trip. It took 40 minutes instead of 52. Timothy is asleep, so I wait in the car while he finishes his nap.
2:35 – “Mommy, we in garage?” He says. I unbuckle and carry him into the house. We let the dogs out and he runs outside to play too, only it’s cold and before I can put on my coat, he changes his mind and comes in.
3:01 – I doze off on the couch while Timmy watches TV. Ali gets home startling me awake, Wait, what day is it? Oh no, it’s time to leave.
3:08 – I drive to pick up the other kids from school, eight miles each way. A passenger in a red minivan waves at me excitedly. I don’t recognize her and I pass by too late to wave back.
3:44 – The first child gets in the car, “I have to get home right away.” She says. I tell her we have errands to run, but bathroom breaks are more important and they don’t let them back in the building after they leave. Child two and child three load up too.
3:56 – Potty break. “How was your day.” Kate’s eyes well up. “Math is so hard.” Beth rolls her eyes, “At least you don’t have to carry around a flour sack.” She rubs her shoulder and kicks off her shoes.
4:10 – Back on the road. Drop off the bags of clothes at the community closet, pick up groceries. One more stop and then home. I get back to the car and stop in my tracks. The driver’s side door is wide open. My thoughts race. Is someone inside? Did I leave it open? Am I really that dumb? I approach slowly and take a peak. No one inside. Nothing missing. Nothing touched. We load up and go home, my mind trying to remember if I shut the door.
5:00 – Finally home. Unload groceries. Help with math. Throw pizza in the oven. Ali’s tongue goes numb. A metallic taste fills her mouth and her heart beats rapidly. Tears well up in her eyes. “Let’s talk.” I say, and take her hands in mine.
6:00 – “Daddy is home!” The youngest two dance by the back door singing the song of his return. Ali and I sit at the computer going over grades and homework and a to-do list, too big for 15 years old. The noise around us grows as unsupervised children, hyped up on Valentine’s candy, race around the house. I’m failing this mom thing. I think to myself. Sweetie takes her for a pep-talk, the kind only a dad can give. She smiles again, a real, light smile of relief. I’m failing this mom thing. I think.
6:30 – Dinner eaten, Homework done. Learning plans signed. The kitchen can wait. Fractions explained in a way Kate understands.
7:08 – Snuggles on the bed, too small for seven people and a flour sack, but squished in just the same.
7:44 – Tidy bedrooms and fold down the covers. “Time for pajamas.” I say.
8:10 – I lie on my stomach, ready for the day to be done. Facebook, email, and texts. Just one more second.
8:39 – Look at the time. Oh crap it’s past time for bed. I’m failing this mom thing. I think to myself. “Littles, come upstairs!” I holler, breaking the inside-voice rule. Hugs and kisses and covers tucked in tight. “Read me a book?” Timmy says, his eyes pleading and his body still breathing. I ask, “Which one would you like?”
9:10 – My eyes grow heavy but I wait. Three down, two to go. Put on pajamas and brush my teeth.
9:36 – Goodnight hugs from my babies who are taller than me.
9:42 – “Hon, would you make me a snack?” I drag myself out of bed in a borrowed bathrobe, trying so hard to stay warm. Grilled cheese and pickles in bed.
9:52 – I check the time before falling asleep once again.