As the school bus pulls away with the last load of children from A Kid’s Place bound for higher learning, I clutch a tissue damp from my tears and slowly make my way up the street, turning longingly toward the end of the road where the school bus has taken the children away from me. Wait, what? Seriously?! Not quite…I actually skip back up the road in glee as the teachers take over for seven glorious hours of each weekday. After months of trying to keep 60 kids entertained, it is over! The day unfolds in front of me like a new novel begging to be opened to chapter one and savored as it transports me to another place and time. The day, with its infinite possibilities…its hours of quiet time to reflect…its blank canvas on which to create…
I open the door to the house and take in the silence. No cartoons blaring, no yelling from the bathroom from someone who has forgotten their towel, no slamming of doors or banging of cabinets. I begin to dance around the family room in unbridled glee when…”OUCH!” I fall to my knees in pain, the tiny errant Lego embedded in my foot. As I sprawl on the floor and writhe in agony, I look up at the underside of the breakfast bar where a piece of pancake has fossilized. The floor is strewn with Cheerios and a sticky puddle of syrup hinders my return to a standing position. Struggling to my feet, I fill the sink with hot soapy water, load the dishwasher, wipe the counters, cabinets chairs and floors and gather belongings that need a home. Inventory of items found in the eating area following breakfast: one sock, one sandal, three sippy cups with no lids, ear buds, a hairbrush, a Matchbox car at the bottom of a cereal bowl full of soggy Cheerios, two sweatshirts, four barrettes, two crayons, a supply list from the teacher, a fully-packed lunchbox, a deodorant stick, a bath towel, and two tubes of lip balm. I gather everything together and begin to walk through the house, putting everything in its place.
The bedrooms look like a cyclone has hit; clothes are strewn from one end to the other, beds are unmade, curtains askew, and dressers cluttered with equal amounts of trash and treasure. I gather up the clothes, towels, socks, and sheets and start the first load (of what will ultimately be a total of seven) of laundry for the day. With the washing machine industriously chugging away, I begin to tackle the bathrooms. By now it’s lunch time and I’m hungry; the toddler class is home for lunch and the preschoolers are filing in to the house with stories of their first day of class. I get everyone fed, settle the little ones down for their naps, and pop in a DVD of “Frozen” for the other kids. This should bring me about 90 minutes to fill out the daily paperwork, check for appointments and medication changes, update information for each child, and reserve a van for an afternoon outing to the park. While Anna and Elsa fight it out in the ice palace, I mop the floors beneath the feet of the little ones watching the movie and make them promise that they won’t move until the floor is dry. I tiptoe carefully into the kitchen and begin to pack a cooler of snacks for the park before starting another load of laundry and stocking fresh towels in the linen closet.
“We’re home!” The door slams open as the kids tumble in and throw their backpacks on the floor, kick off their shoes, and bolt for the refrigerator in search of a snack.
“Oh, Frozen! Can you start it over for us?”
“I need a calculator and a box of tissues for school tomorrow.”
“Can I go outside and ride my bike?”
“My teacher said I can join the choir and the nature club and Indian Princesses…”
Five year old James hugs my legs and looks up at me innocently. “Were you sad when we left you all by yourself today? What did you do when you were all alone?”
I laugh as I place a kiss on top of his head. “It didn’t feel like you were really gone,” I assure him.