Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Life Less ExTraordinary: Diary of a Housewife Turned Space Captain, Part 2

(You are reading this story in progress. To start at the beginning, please click here. To go to the Table of Contents, click here. This story is being written live, daily, and with some audience participation in October 2013).

    Grabbing a few minutes of peace in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but I love mornings now that I have three children. The morning is the only time I have just for me, to sit in the quiet and sip my tea. To read a book if I want, or even write in a journal. Maybe that’s why I bought this notebook; to give myself a little time to myself in the mornings. Just a slice of a moment for me, not doing something for anyone else.

    I love my family. I do. I love George, who has to be the most supportive and loving man in the world. I love Kyle, my little athlete. I love my girls. Isabella is a little athlete, too, although she prefers softball and dance to Kyle’s basketball and soccer. And Juliette. . .

    Juliette is my precious little troublemaker. She’s the baby who rips off her diaper and streaks across the house naked. Of all the kids, she’s the one who reminds me the most of me.
Or, at least, of who I used to be, before the children.

    Right now all of them are asleep. I’m about to brew some coffee, which will wake up George and Juliette just by the aroma. Isabella and Kyle will be asleep in their rooms. Kyle will have the sheets up over his head like he always does. The child is so slim I’ve lost him more than once, just to realize he was in his bed the whole time and I thought he was just a bunch of wrinkles under the bed-covers.  Isabella will stomp her way through her morning, shattering my nerves. Then I’ll have to get Isabella and Kyle off to school, come back and start to work on this messy house.

   Kyle has a soccer game right after Isabella’s dance practice tonight, and I promised this afternoon I’d get with some of the other Mom’s and help them organize the fundraisers this year for the Intramural Soccer League.

   I wanted to get my hair done, too, but it doesn’t look like there will be time. Our anniversary is this weekend, and I wanted to look pretty. . .

   Oh, well, if George can still love me on a day like today, when my hair won’t ever leave it’s messy ponytail, then I suppose he’ll love me without a $100 haircut. I’ll do the best with what I’ve got, like I always do.

   And maybe I can steal a little time for myself this evening before bed, to write some more in here.

   Something weird happened. I don’t even want to write it down, in case someone ever reads this and thinks that I’m crazy. I’m not even sure that I’m not crazy. I can’t believe it, but I remember it, and I . . .

   Maybe I should just write it down.

   I was taking the kids home from soccer. I had my kids, plus Carson and Garrett and Julio. I was dropping them off at Betty Hernandez’s house.

   No, wait. I should start at the beginning, if I’m going to tell this at all.

   I had texted George to tell him what the evening plans were. I had just dropped off Isabella to her dance class, and I was swinging back over to Mrs. Hernandez’s to pick up Kyle and the other boys so the other mothers could talk candy bar orders amongst themselves. Juliette was having a ball in the back seat, yammering to herself like she always does. I could hear her toys rattling while she played with them.

   Suddenly she stops talking. I looked in the rear-view, but of course I can’t see anything because she’s in a rear-facing seat. But she was so quiet, just all of the sudden. It scared me.
You know, Mom always warned me that as long as kids are making noise they’re probably OK, and the point at which you should be worried is when they are suddenly quiet.

   And she was quiet.

   I called back to her. “Juliette, are you OK?”

   I know she can’t understand me, but it was a reflex.

   Except she did understand me.

   At least, I think she did. Because she said, clear as day, “Yeah, yeah.”

   Now, I know that could be just baby talk. She just made sounds, and they sounded like “Yeah, yeah.” And I was a little creeped out, but that’s what I assumed when I first heard it.

   I mean, I was busy. I was less than two minutes from Mrs. Hernandez’s—I was concentrating on getting there. Goosebumps are not enough to keep me from my mission, you know?

   So I picked up the boys and dropped them off at the game. Juliette and I watched the game for a little, and she was her normal self. Then I picked up Isabella from Dance, and came back to the game with both girls. It was great. A nice crisp feel to the autumn air. And you know that smell that the leaves get when they are changing? A little bit acrid, a little bit musty? The breeze had that smell. I watched the other parents clapping and hollering for their kids. Everything seemed a little too sharp, a little too real. Maybe it’s just my brain looking at everything suspiciously because of what happened, but I remember thinking even in that moment that it was just so beautiful—so real­­—like nothing in my life had ever been more real, like I had never been more present than I was right then. It was pleasantly intense.

   They lost the game, but it was close, so they were  a little subdued but happy when they all piled into the car. Garrett is such a nice boy, he sat next to Juliette and played with her while she cooed at him. I wouldn’t be surprised if those two get married one day. He has a gentle heart.

   Carson and Kyle were making boy war noises in the third row seats, and I could hear Isabella giving them a hard time with her piping voice.

   A normal trip home—or so I thought.

   The van was filled with the sounds and smells of a successful evening. Everything still seemed just a little too crisp, a little too perfect, but I ignored it.

   I should have ignored it.

   While we were driving back—and it’s only a ten-minute drive from the field to Mrs. Hernandez’s—I got this funny feeling in my chest. I even put my hand to my heart, wondering if I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t painful, it just felt swollen, like my heart or my stomach was expanding like a bubble. I think I took my foot off the gas and put it on the brake without realizing it, because when the ball of blinding white light dropped down in front of the van, I hit the brakes so hard and so fast I barely had time to brace myself. My head hit the headrest really hard, and I turned around, trying to blink away the blind spots from that light, to check on the kiddoes.

  But they were all frozen.

  None of them had moved. I mean, not even a hair on their heads had moved, from when the van had been cruising at 30 mph. Garrett’s hand still held the rattling butterfly toy. Isabella still leaned halfway over the second row seat. Kyle and Carson had their heads back in raucous laughter.

   But none of them were making a sound, or a move.

   They weren’t even breathing.

   I touched the back of my head to see if maybe I had hurt myself. I could move. I was breathing.
My head didn’t hurt, and the super-bright light showed me that the children weren’t turning blue or anything.

   I turned back toward the light. I shaded my eyes against it, but I couldn’t make anything out. It was brighter than those construction spotlights they use, and those things are so bright I have a hard time driving after.

   I still don’t know what possessed me. I guess it was fear for the safety of my kids and the kids in my care. Whatever the reason, I reached out my hand to the door handle, and I pulled it.
What was I thinking? Was I really going to get out of the car, leaving the kids behind, and go confront this thing?

   I don’t know. I’ll never know, because as soon as the door latch popped, the light was gone.

   Like poof. I mean gone-gone. As if it had never been there.

   The kids started laughing again, mid-laugh. I heard Juliette squeal in delight as Garrett shook the rattle toy. Everything resumed as if nothing had happened.

   I looked back at them, but none of them seemed to notice anything was wrong.

   And when I turned back toward the road, I saw I was at the four-way stop at Elm and Conifer. And it was my turn to go. Just as I touched the gas pedal to go, I heard Juliette's unmistakable giggle. And then she said, very clearly, "All gone."

Even Garrett heard it. I heard him gasp. I looked in the rearview mirror at his moon-white face. Even his freckles looked sickly pale. And I don't even know why I did it, but I put my finger to my lips and told him "shh."

   Why did I do that? What had happened? Had I fallen asleep? Dreamed a ball of light that stopped me right where I needed to stop, to keep myself and the children safe. And how had a thirteen-month old baby suddenly learned to talk? Was I imagining it all? Hallucinating?

   Had the ball of light been an angel, or a heart attack? Was the bright light the tunnel? Was Heaven a place where even babies could speak? Am I losing my mind?

   I don’t know. I can only hope it never, ever happens again.

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  1. Fun! BTW my daughter talked a lot at 13 months.

    1. Shoot! I was thinking my boys, who wouldn't say a word before 2. I like the scariness of "13", though. I may have to re-think this part. :-) Just wait until she says "Theommis", LOL