Heading to Mendocino, David asked if I had heard any updates in the case of the armed and unstable man being hunted by authorities in the forests of Fort Bragg.
I thought he was kidding me until he tuned his radio to a local station, and the DJ explained that there were no updates to report in the case of that armed and unstable man.
We were on our way to a wedding. It was the first time I had been away from Alice for more than a dozen hours, for more than a dozen miles.
It is not fair or even true to say that it is easy for David to leave her behind. But it is harder for me. Muscles tenser. Worries more improbable.
It is not easy to leave her behind. But, of course, it has gotten easier.
Still, I wince to hear other parents tally the household sacrifices they have made so that a mother may stay home with her kids – defensively, because it has never been down to this many lattes or that many manicures or what I am willing to do without. And defensively because all those minutes apart are a sacrifice too, arent they? Made in exchange for what they mean I can give her: For example, fresh fruit. A backyard. A mother who is a part of the big world, who has something to say in it and to it.
On a good day, anyway.
Still, I hold my breath when I park to pick her up after work each evening. Will I find her crying? Hurt? Sad? Hungry? Confused?
Nope: Happy. “OK, say ‘Bye and thank you,'” I tell her. And she does.
Still, I orchestrate contortions of other people’s time and patience to avoid having to call the “stranger,” our babysitter, an adorable speech-therapy student. In fact, right this very minute, my father is driving back here from five hours away to stay with Alice while her day care is closed for the rest of the week.
Oh, we are fortunate.
Over the weekend, my parents sent sweet proof-of-life pictures – Alice on the way to the toy store! Alice playing a shrinky-dink baby grand! – while we were with friends, drawing messages in sand and seaweed on the woodsy Northern Coast.
We came home Sunday to a tea party that consumed the whole living room.
When I turned down my bed last night, I found the crust of half a grilled-cheese sandwich.