I don't have a lot of practice being away from my daughters. Once or twice a year, I get away for a weekend to meet up with other writers and attend workshops and it is always incredibly rewarding and relaxing and, often, a great deal of fun. Every evening that I'm away, I call my girls to tell them goodnight and it's a little like Russian Roulette as I dial the number and wonder whether they'll be eager to tell me all about their day or if they will spend ten minutes sobbing and saying how much they miss me and asking when I'll be home.
It's great to be missed - by your husband. It sucks to be missed in that plaintive, desperate way that a nine year old girl has of covering you in guilt for breaking her little heart. It's even worse when your six year old tells you there is no way she will be able to sleep tonight without a goodnight kiss from you. I often debate whether to skip the call and claim that my battery died or I was so busy writing that, before I knew it, it was too late to call. I always end up calling.
This weekend I spent three glorious days on the Oregon Coast at a writing workshop with Deb. The Oregon Coast is one of my favorite places on the planet and the weather was perfect. Sunny and sixty degrees, windy during the day and still during sunset. We witnessed three of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen over the Pacific Ocean and spent our days laughing and scribbling notes on how to tidy up our manuscripts as we submit them for publication.
Friday night the phone call was rough. I got through it and when 8:00 rolled around on Saturday night, my stomach clenched. My youngest daughter, "Lola," got on the phone and informed me that she had spent the day making signs advertising a show she was putting on and posting them around the house.
"It says to come to Room 11 at 9:00am and I taped a sign on my bedroom door that says it's Room 11 so I won't forget. What time will you be home, Mommy? Can you come see the show?"
"I won't be home that early, Sweetheart, but sometimes they do two shows a day. Maybe you could do one at 9:00am and another one at 6:00pm." Damn! I didn't want to miss a show!
"It's not really a show, Mommy. I'm going to be teaching things. You see, I know a lot. A lot of things that grown-ups don't even know. Like, you know the first star? The brightest star of the night? Did you know that if you stop and look at it, really look at it hard, like for a minute or two, it doesn't look like a dot? It actually looks like a real star. Not like the ones that people draw with a cross and another cross by them, but like a really five pointed star. It is actually a real five pointed star."
"Wow! I didn't know that."
"Well, try it tonight, okay? The brightest star. The one that was first, okay? And then, when you get home, you can come to the 6:00pm Lola's Learning Show."
"You got it, babe."
I raced. I only stopped for one pee break all the way home. Spent the hours between 9:30am and 5:00pm in the car today so I could make it home in time for the 6:00 show. She hadn't forgotten. As I walked into her bedroom I saw three chairs set up. Well, two chairs and an overturned laundry bin, each with a nametag on them for one member of the family. While we waited for her to set things up, she had thoughtfully placed a book on the floor in front of each seat for us to look through.
She did, indeed, talk about stars. She also outlined her schedule of shows for the rest of the week. She has "Elephant Tuesdays," "Big Pickle," "Animal Thursday," and a few other classes we might be interested in. She was gracious, informative, and enthusiastic. She stopped to take questions and explained that Elephant Tuesdays are dedicated to learning about elephants, on Thursdays we can choose any animal we want to learn about, and Big Pickle has to do with learning how pickles grow and speculating about just how that huge pickle she has got into that tiny jar. At the end of our class, she thanked us for our time and reminded us to go outside and look at that star again. The first one. The brightest one.
I'm not sure it's outside. I'm pretty sure it's six years old.