Remember those gift exchange parties you used to throw when everyone would jostle each other trying to grab a spot on the loveseat?
Ours was just like that, only worse! We invited everybody: Chet, Joe McDuff, Argus Brown, Mara, Pip, Faith and Felicity, Waylon and Gator. And, just like always, everybody crowded into the room. To make it worse, Riley was there in the midst of the crowd. I don’t know if you knew this about her, but she hates being around lots of people, especially if she doesn’t know them well yet.
But guess what? All the guys fell for her! “Oh, I love a woman who cares about developing her talents!” “Oh, we have so much in common!” “Hey, what’s your sign?”
I was glad it was her, not me! Seriously!
And I’m also not surprised. She’s sweet, inside and out. You know what she does all day? She cleans house! She walks around, putting away Zoey’s toys, shelving books, washing dishes, making beds, doing laundry!
I tell her to have some fun, and she says, “This is fun!”
After the party, she finally felt relaxed enough to eat. I asked her if she enjoyed herself during the party, trying to gauge how she felt about getting so much attention from the guys.
“I had fun watching you having fun,” she said. I did have a great time. After we opened all the presents, we all danced, even the kids, and it was a blast.
After Riley and the kids went to sleep, I came in to get a glass of water. I found Zoey and Roxy watching TV with Dante. I asked him how you were, and he said everything was good, for him and you and all your friends. Is it good, Mom? Are you doing fine? Bo says you’re happy, too, but I wonder. I miss you, and I wonder if you miss us, too, even though you come around. Do you know we always think of you?
I really could’ve used your calmness the other day. You always seemed to know what to do, and the other day, I was so worried and helpless feeling. You see, the kids didn’t come home after school and, like always, it was snowing. I got really worried as it started getting dark, and they were sill gone.
Riley said not to worry, that they were probably just playing in the snow in the school yard.
But Patches hadn’t slept well the night before, and she’d been sleepy when the school bus came. I was planning to suggest that she take a nap before supper even, and then have us work on her homework together after we ate.
I couldn’t bear thinking of her out there in the cold, feeling sleepy.
Bo came home first, racing his bike up the street like he always does, humming his song.
“Are you OK, Sprout? I’ve been worried sick!” I asked him.
“Yeah, sure, Sis. Didn’t Patches tell you I was coming?”
He was surprised to hear that Patches hadn’t made it home yet.
“We better go find her,” he said.
He was cold, wet, and tired, so I sent him inside to get some supper, then I headed out on my bike, retracing their route.
As I was crossing the bridge, I looked out over the meadow and saw the lights from the Red Velvet Lounge. It looked warm in there.
I heard that whisper, the one you used to talk about.
Follow your hunch.
So I followed my hunch and went to the Red Velvet, and there, sleeping on one of the sofas, was Patches. I’ve never been more relieved in my life. I let her sleep for a bit, and then I gently woke her up, and we rode back home.
Mom, I thought that caring for kids would be as easy as caring for Zoey. You know, play with them, feed them, help them brush their hair or give them a bath. That’s all! But it’s so much harder! I don’t know how you did it! And you were all by yourself. I’ve got Riley, and it still feels like the hardest thing in the world.
You know what, though? It makes me appreciate you all the more!