Originally posted in my old blog February 2006. For nearly six months, Al worked in Chicago, coming home only on the weekends, while Bean and I stayed home in Atlanta.
After his week of plane rides, long days, lonely nights and job stress, he comes home and makes us his girls again. Friday night, upon his arrival, there are long hugs, long kisses, and the two of us spoon opposite sides of a mammoth bowl of hot, buttered popcorn, snuggle under a blanket on the floor and watch the highly-anticipated weekly episode of What NOT to Wear. (Highly anticipated by me, anyway. I can never be sure if his enthusiasm's for Stacy and Clinton and their weekly victim, or for the spooning and popcorn.) And then we go to bed and make like married people. I get a massage and drift to sleep in a cradle built of brown arms and gentle, frothy peacefulness.
Saturday morning Alex awakes and chatters in her room about balls, birds and babies and then practices fake sneezes for 15 minutes, before floating a tiny, delectable "Mama?" across the hall, around the corner, and up the left side of the bed where it nestles sweetly into my waiting ear. Beside me, he stirs, turns and asks the question with only his eyebrows. My eyebrows answer. He's to her door cooing in a few stumbling steps. I hear them dawn on one another again. "Dadda!" He murmurs softly to her and from my warm bed I feel their two hearts unfolding right in the center of my own. He carries his daughter, her back straight and her head held high, to our bed, a matching light glows on the faces I love more than any others. She finds Mama's mouth for a kiss...nook? she queries. I slip to the kitchen as they snuggle with books, and return with her milk. She props herself against pillows and holds the cup with one hand, the other touching his face, his arm, his fingers, until it finally finds her favorite lovey, his earlobe. I watch, not breathing, not blinking, willing my perfect silence to hold the moment still as my eyes reach out and pull it into myself forever. Milk and books and Daddy and daughter jumble together beside me for moments before some or all of them find their way downstairs, and the cheese grits ritual begins. I lie and listen. Clinking, laughing, grits in a bowl. Water in pipes. He asks and answers. She proclaims and announces. Spoons scrape bowls. I shower. Coffee drifts upstairs to flirt with me, and I shrug off mascara for my sunny kitchen.
The next hour finds the three of us at Waffle House. The sun filters through the black-screened windows and Alex's smile and giggling outshines every warm ray. She's on a Daddy high. Everyone around us gets a curly little nod of her head, a scrunchy-faced grin, a backward Queen-wave. We have the usual and she eats another breakfast with us as if the grits were yesterday. We laugh. We make plans for the day. With him across from me I am engulfed in anticipation of every next second. I am again the me only he makes me. The lines above his eyes smooth, his smile eases down from tense and pleasing to real and ... real. He is happy to be home. We run errands. She walks in the middle, a hand streeeeeeeetched up to Mama, a hand streeeeetched up to Daddy. Toes on the ground. Bouncy, happy toes.
She drifts off in the backseat as we unfold our week gone by and pull out moments and people and plans and sort through, laughing, deciding, laughing again. At home, he unbuckles and peels her out of her seat. She smooths back down against him and we stand and discuss in gestures of our eyes what to do with our sleeping Bean.
She naps. We curl together in bed with a tiny DVD player and watch episodes of West Wing. Two hours later, we awake to her chatter a second time. She announces Poo Poo as we enter her room. He is in charge! Later, clean and expectant, she rides his hip with a shoulder for reins - down the stairs, bip bop boop. Shoes on six feet, coats and the stroller, and we breathe sunlight and chilly wind into our lungs as the street becomes the playground. With Daddy's protective arms a breath away, she alights - her red shoes thump stomp slap with the sound of complete fearlessness. An hour passes as I push a hair from my eyes. The sun fades, the wind sharpens. Home glows warm. Spaghetti begets a bath which begets soft pajamas and books. She sighs as we turn off her light and now we are two again.
Sunday opens as preciously as Saturday, but with a new, melancholy melody played in the same time. But the rhythm slows as the day glides by - he is sad with a Sunday sadness - the knowing of the end that precedes his leaving by half a day. Monday wakes early and gray - he has my heart in the bag over his shoulder, and I ask God to hold him as tightly as I want to for the next week. He leaves me in the darkness. She will awake and ask for him by name, and I will muster a way to make the sun rise for her in my own sad eyes. She and I will be the only us we know until Friday brings him home again.