I am in the car. It's just me and Girl-three. Girls one and two spent the weekend with my parents (quiet house again) and I'm meeting my dad in an outskirt-ish town so his drive isn't quite so long.
Girl-three isn't saying much -- this car is kind of a ghost town without her sisters. I've got the heat on high to chase away the chills and my thoughts are mixed in and digesting -- leavening for my daily bread. Only I'm rising a bit too much -- out of myself -- and I miss a turn on this familiar road. I take the next U-turn and get back on track. But I'm still lost in thought.
I pull into the gas station. They're parked. Waiting. I see two grinning girls wave from the front seat -- they've been here long enough to unstrap and spill into a new space.
I get out and they're already on the pavement, two bubbling brooks unbound in this frozen landscape. My head is still lodged in the clouds -- they're hanging low today -- so it's quick hellos and hugs and I'm on task with loading bags and carseats and its not until I'm halfway home that I realize -- I just missed my moment.
The girls and I see a whole lot of one another. My presence is a constant. Even when I'm at work, I'm still here, just behind that door. Whatever they need. But when they got out of my dad's car, they had been gone for two full sleeps. That's long enough to miss the look of someone.
I could have had my moment. I could have got down on a knee, eye level, and taken those hugs full strength instead of watered down. I could have whispered into their hair -- I missed you. I'm glad you're home. But I missed that moment.
Now we're driving home and Girl-one has her nose buried in a book and Girl-two is singing her way into a whole new world. I'm back to being car driver and meal maker and rule setter. But I'm also bed-head kisser and lunch-note packer and lost-toy finder and good-night hugger. I'm the face of home for these children, even when I'm old hat. And that's a good feeling.
But I'm sad I missed that moment. I can't get it back. I'm trying to collect as many as I can, to line my soul, to cushion my heart. These days will be gone before I can blink.
It's morning. Snack time. I'm about to get up from my chair and put away some dishes -- Girl-three is safe in her high chair and I have to make the most of these moments. Girl-two stops hopping her bunny crackers across the table and looks at me.
Mama, I want to be close to you.
So I scoot her chair closer to mine and we're touching. I don't get up. I stay right here. Now.
In my moment.