“The lights are out at the park. Nobody is playing there.”
“Yes, that’s because it’s night time, and the park closes when the sun goes down. Did you know that?”
“Yes. And what happens if someone still goes to the park when it’s closed?”
“Well, a policeman could come and ask them to leave, or he might ask them to pay some money because they broke the rule.”
“Maybe. Or like $100. Or something.” I don’t really know the fine for trespassing after dusk.
“Does everyone know the laws around here?”
“I think so.” If not, they’ll know when they break one. Or when they get caught. For now, let’s assume everyone knows the rules.
“If someone sneaks into our bedroom, if we hear them stomp up the stairs, then we should pretend we are asleep, right?”
I want to tell them nothing like this would ever happen. But then I remember a friend from my childhood, Rachel, who was awake when someone robbed their home, and she only knew what to do because her mother had told her to lay very still in the case of such an emergency.
“Yes, be very still. Pretend you are sleeping. But remember: we have a security system, so the police would know we needed them and they would come right away.”
“Would they go one hundred?”
“I don’t really know what that means.”
“Would they go one hundred.”
Still. I’m not clear. And then I see three letters in my mind: MPH. “Oh, 100 miles per hour? Yes, buddy. I’m sure they would.”
“Mommy, do you remember when the police came?”
“On the night daddy died.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“And you carried me really quickly out to Miss Melody’s car.”
“I sure did.”
“You carried me out because you wanted to see Daddy dead all by yourself.”
We haven’t talked about this in a long time. Your vocabulary has changed since we last remembered together.
“Well, I carried you out to Miss Melody because I knew Daddy had died, and I had a lot of decisions to make. And I wanted you to be able to play and be happy for one more day before everything would change for you.”
“You cried a lot that day, Mommy.”
“Sometimes you still need to cry for Daddy.”
“Sometimes I do. I cried for him today.”
I’ll tell you why another time.
“But tomorrow is a new day. That’s what Chicken Little says.”
Yes, so does Scarlet O’Hara.
“Mommy, we need the new daddy.”
“We will. We will have him when it’s time.”
“You need him the most, Mommy. You need to stop crying.”
“It won’t be the new daddy’s job to help me stop crying, but it will be wonderful when he is part of us.”
“How old is our country?”
Quick math. 2013 take away 1776. “Um, I think about two hundred forty years.”
(I know it’s not right. It was an estimate.)
“So on the country’s next birthday, it will turn 241?”
“I’m not really sure.”
I’m content to let them think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I don’t know how to do three-digit subtraction in my head. I do know. But I’m not doing it right now.
“How many dollars are three million pennies?”
And now I’m mentally moving the decimal point two spaces. “Um, let’s see. $3,000.00. Or maybe $30,000.00. We can figure it out tomorrow.” I can’t seem to count the zeros in my head.
“Do all the people in the world like all the people in the world?”
And now we are discussing world peace.
“Well, not everybody likes everybody. But it would be great if they all did.”
“But they people who have the devil in their hearts, do they like everyone?”
“I don’t really know.” Someday he will see that even people who have Jesus in their hearts don’t always like everyone.
“Can I have dessert?”
“There are cookies on the counter.”
“Can I have juice?”
“You may have water.”
“I want juice.”
“You may have water.”
“Can you get it?”
“I will show you how in our new kitchen so you can forevermore get it yourself.”
We walk up the stairs with water cups in hand.
“Can you read us a story?”
“I can’t do stories tonight, lovey.”
“You never do.”
“That’s not true at all, and it’s not fair for you to say never.”
“Well, you don’t read the ones I like. You only read grownup books to us.”
“That’s bunk. Junie B. Jones is open on your nightstand.”
“I want you to read one tonight.”
“I’m exhausted, buddy. I can’t read anything out loud tonight. Plus, tomorrow we’re getting like 87 inches of snow, so I’ll read to you tomorrow, as many books as you want, whichever ones you like most.”
Whatever. Pouting doesn’t make the radar around here.
Kisses. Hugs. Prayers.
“Buddy, I’m sorry I was impatient tonight. Please forgive me.”
“I forgive you.”
And it would be nice if you asked forgiveness for not listening well, but tonight I’ll model humility and not scorekeeping.
On my way out, I trip over Buzz Lightyear, who instantly and automatically declares an intergalactic emergency.
Buzz, call it a night. We are two hours past bedtime.
Tuck just hopped down the stairs like a merman, both of his legs in one pantleg. He says Tyler made him do it, since Tyler came down the stairs first and Tuck had to rush. Nobody should be downstairs. Everybody: Up.
If you knew how much I’ve done for you today, you wouldn’t use that tone with me. Take your tone to bed.
Sometimes I wish there were someone else for them to call for. “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.” Incessant.
Except one of them says it so quickly that it comes out, “My. My. My.” And the two kind of seem to mean the same thing.
I’m spent tonight.
Nothing left, guys.
I’d like to climb into someone’s arms.
Not just anyone’s, though.
It wouldn’t be his job to make me happy or less tired.
But it would be nice to have him here.
It would feel nice to feel safe. And held.
And part of a team.