For the last week the kids have been in Arizona. The first few days I got messages from them, things like quick stories from Audrey about how she saw a lizard on their climb up a mountain, and Margo asking for pictures of the cats. I told Audrey that her homework was to take a picture of a lizard for me. And that Margo had to take a picture of her doing something “Cool” with her “feet”. But then, like always, they were wrapped up in the fun they were having and I didn’t hear from them. I started to miss them like every time they’re out of town. And by the time they were coming off the plane and dropped off, I was worried that they would be in one of those phases where staying with me is boring compared to the excitement they had.
I actually got nervous. Normally I have a pretty good attitude about when kids get crabby, but this time I was actually nervous. Being unemployed, the best I could do was plan a big breakfast for them the next morning. But with only a half hour left before they came I felt like it wasn’t good enough. When I got the text from their mom saying that she was coming I fidgeted in the lobby. The first out of the mini-van was Audrey. She had a big smile on her face, hugged me, and immediately started talking about how she saw a lizard while at the Grand Canyon. And about the book she bought called “Hatchet”, and all about the story and how she was already half way through the thing. Margo took a while getting out and then gave me a long hug. She said she missed me. We walked down the hall to my place with Audrey talking the whole time. Margo kept her arm around me. When we got inside audrey pulled out photos that were taken with her Grandma’s camera and printed up at Walgreens. One was a photo of the mountain they climbed. There were others of them posing with their mom and grandparents. Then another was of a giant lizard they saw at the grand canyon. “Oh, I thought you forgot all about it!” I said, “That’s so cool!” she explained that her phone died and the Wifi was “weird” out there. Margo told me that she tried to take a picture of her feet- she drew on them. Margo gave me a really long hug while Audrey continued talking. She buried her face in my neck and I could hear her small breathing. I told Audrey that I was going to be snuggling them like crazy all weekend. She didn’t seem to notice. Then the kids snuggled the cats for a while.
I scooped out some ice cream and let them watch TV before bed. They asked what I’ve been doing- I explained that I’ve been lifting weights, doing yoga, and basically living like a guy in prison. Margo told me that she doesn’t want me to lose my tummy. I told them about breakfast. Audrey was excited because she loves making eggs. Margo asked if she could have pancakes- luckily I still have some mix left. We all agreed that I suck at making bacon and they would help me. As they watched TV in their room I hung out on Margo’s bottom bunk with my phone. After Audrey finished she climbed in and snuggled me. That felt so good. Margo suddenly told me that Audrey had a dream about me. I asked if it was a good dream, or a bad one. She smiled and said it was good. I asked what it was about- but she was too embarrassed to say what it was. “Did we get married?” I asked. She said no. “Did I lift my shirt, and instead of a big, hairy tummy, I had a puppy for a tummy?” She laughed and said no. “Did we climb a mountain together, then when we reached the top we both learned the gift of flight?”
“Dad- stop asking.” She said.
“Ok, but it was a good dream?”
“Yeah, I woke up and thought, Oh- it’s only Wednesday.”
I promised to read them a story for bed, and Audrey asked that I read “Hatchet”. They both went out to the kitchen to get water. Audrey asked what I had paused on Netflix. I said, “It’s Mad Men- It’s about what working in an office was like for Grandpa Howie.” She said it sounded boring. I said, “It’s basically about how a long time ago they treated black people and women really badly. And smoked cigarettes.” Audrey told me about how she read a story in school about a black woman who was treated badly. They climbed into bed and before I started, Margo asked if she could snuggle me while I read. So i got into bed and she rested her head and tiny hand on my gut. I read loudly so Audrey could hear me from above. But Margo was so sleepy I could hear her quietly snoring. When the chapter was done I closed my eyes and listened to her for a while.