Driving home on I-95 on a Friday afternoon: torturous. I left Fairfax at 3:30PM and by 5:15PM, I have only made it the 45 miles to Fredericksburg. I do a lot of deep breathing, telling myself to relax, that I will make it. I figure that if I concentrate hard enough, I can will myself into a parallel universe where the traffic clears up just after Fredericksburg and I make it home by 7:00.
About five miles past Fredericksburg, the traffic clears up.
This parallel universe doesn’t look too much different, except for the startling amount of cars that are no longer in my way.
I thank the heavens above that some fabulous government official somewhere proposed some sort of legislation that upped the speed limit to 70. I hope I voted for him or her. It’s only five miles faster than the previous 65 mph limit, but 5 miles counts a lot when you’re counting the minutes.
I see a road sign telling me how many miles to Newport News. I do the math. I am going to make it. It is no longer by dint of sheer willpower, either, but confirmed by physics.
At 6:45PM, I pull into the driveway. I yank up the parking brake, grab the keys out of the ignition, and jump out of the car. I race into the garage, and into the house and…nothing. No one.
I stand dumbfounded for a minute. Did I jump into a parallel universe too far from my own? One where no one is waiting?
Then I hear the sounds. Laughter. Shrieking. Splashing.
I run upstairs.
And there, in my bathroom, fresh from a bath and being swaddled in a towel by his Opa, stands my little man. The little man for whom I would— I did— happily traverse universes, defy I-95 traffic, and make it home for bedtime.
He looks at me, his hair wet and his eyes sparkling. I expect him to scream or run to me or hop, hop, hop with joy, but he just gives a slow smile. “Hi, Mimi,” he says, casually.
“Hi, Eamon,” I say, trying to also appear nonchalant, even though I want nothing more than to sweep him up into my arms and kiss, kiss, kiss him.
“Bath,” he tells me carelessly, in case I hadn’t noticed.
“Are you ready for bed?” I ask, trying to mimic his off-handed manner but not really succeeding.
He thinks about it. “Yes, okay,” he says after a moment’s reflection.
I take him into his bedroom and we put on his diaper and jammies. He allows me to sneak a few kisses but makes it known that really, there are more important things to be doing. He picks out some books and I read them. I do the voices, and he laughs, then we brush his teeth. I lift him into his bed, and he grabs his Grover doll and Lion and says brightly, “Night, Mimi!”
I kiss the top of his head. “Goodnight, Eamon. Sleep well. I love you.”
But he is already playing with his Grover as I turn out the light.
I go downstairs and talk to Eamon’s Oma and Opa, Aaron’s parents. They update me on everything from the last few days while I was out of town (Aaron was gone as well, but hasn’t made it back yet).
Meanwhile, on the monitor, I hear Eamon restlessly talking to himself, turning over, trying to sleep, and failing. He doesn’t cry out, so I give him time to see if he will soothe himself to sleep.
After about 45 minutes, I take pity. I take some rice milk in a sippy cup and give it to him while we sit in the glider. As he sucks down the milk, he curls himself into my arms. I lean the glider back as far as it will go. He finishes his milk, and cuddles farther into my embrace. Sitting there with him curled up in my arms, clinging to me as we rock gently, I am briefly transported back to the universe where he is still a tiny newborn, dependent and free with his unabashed love and devotion.
Finally, after about fifteen minutes, he breaks free and sits up. He looks at me. “Mimi,” he says quietly. “Tired. Bed.”
“Are you ready to go to sleep now?” I ask.
For the second and last time that evening, I gently lift him into his bed. I tuck him into his blanket, his Lion nestled up to his neck. His heavy eyelids dip dangerously low over his eyes as he sleepily whispers, “Night, Mimi. Love you.”
This time, he is asleep before I leave the room.
In the morning, we will wake up and we will play games, sing songs, and talk of dinosaurs while we read books about dinosaurs. He will go outside, and get angry, and be sorry, and hug and snuggle and dance. He will learn new words and dazzle more people with his smile…and every minute, my little boy will inch closer and closer to the tall, strong, generous, charismatic man he so longs and is destined to be.
But tonight, briefly and despite his best efforts, he was still my little baby.
I love you, Eamon. You are my everything—my every universe— and I am glad I am home.