“Do you want to guess where your mom is at this very moment?” I ask. The kids are used to these kinds of games from me, and since I’ve bribed them with ice cream, they play along pleasantly enough.
“She’s 30,000 feet in the air,” I say, pausing just a second to let that sink in, “at this very moment.”
Jack walks over to the rail and looks up through the trees to see if he can catch a glimpse of her.
“Daddy, do you think she can see us?” he says.
“Come on, Jack,” says his sister, rolling her eyes. She is nearly 13 years old now, so the eye roll is her period for the end of just about every sentence these days. “She couldn’t see us from that far away. Plus, she’s not flying over the house, is she, daddy?”
“Well, I’m not sure,” I say, trying to protect Jack’s feelings. “If she is, it probably won’t be for a while longer. She’s not supposed to land in Asheville until about 9:30 or so.”
“Well, if I see a plane, I’m going to wave just to be sure,” Jack says.
We see planes crisscrossing the sky all the time waiting on the school bus every morning. We imagine where they’re going, or where they’ve been. We imagine being on them, and talk about where we would like to go. His mother has been in Dallas, Texas, at a training session for her new job, which will require her to be gone a few days each week. It is an exciting promotion for her, and the new job suits her personality and skill set just about perfectly. Still, we are all in for a transitional phase, which we have talked about at length over the past several weeks. There will be lots of phone calls, lots of Skyping, lots of photos of the places she visits posted on Facebook so that the kids and I can see her and feel her presence, even when she is away.
Before she left, she took the time to write each of us little letters on bright pink paper and left them on our bedroom pillows, like mints in a hotel. I notice when I put them to bed later that the notes are still face up on their bed-stands, where they can read them anytime they want.
“Did mom write you a sweet note?” I ask my daughter as I tuck her in.
“Yeah,” she says, trying to retain her air of studied nonchalance. “You know how she is.”
Yes, I do. I know she will bring them postcards from Texas and airplane pretzels and maybe a T-shirt or a hat. I know she will spend an hour tomorrow morning recounting the details of her Texas adventure — trips to the art museum and the park, a dinner at a wonderful little Mexican restaurant she found, and details about her flights to and from Texas. I know she will spend another hour listening to stories of THEIR adventures while she was gone, a little league baseball game on Thursday night against the Athletics, a difficult test at school, a secret crush who suddenly has a new girlfriend, though no one really cares, no, not at all.
Once I get the kids tucked in, I have time to watch a little bit of the Masters golf tournament before switching over to the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. I’ve always loved listening to Vin Scully call a Dodger game, and tonight the Dodger’s hotshot South Korean import Hyun-Jin Ryu is hurling a real doozy — a two-hit shutout — against our division rivals. I’m wearing my lucky Dodger cap and indulging in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. I’m like a boy playing hooky from school, having my own adventure.
“Daddy, do you think she can see us?”
I pick up my note and read it again, for about the tenth time. Just a few seconds later, I hear the familiar sound of tires on gravel and practically jump out of bed in a scramble for the front door, the Sheriff right behind me, yapping all the way.
And now we resume the best adventure of all, already in progress …