They had been gone a week and one day, the longest she had ever been without the two little ones. Although they were slated to be with their Granny for the entire month, two weeks was the goal - she would be visiting them after two weeks. No big deal, anyone could withstand two weeks without kids.
She kept herself busy on her days during work - her schedule was such that she was away from home more than twelve hours per day, and that schedule would last for a month. Hence the kids being with their Granny for that amount of time. Work, come home, make food for the next day, go to bed, get up and do it all over again. Until days off...
Her first day off was OK - she spent the day on the couch watching movies and napping, not caring that she was being completely lazy and unproductive. The second day was different... the quiet of the apartment was maddening. She was lonely. She missed the two more than she could stand... then she saw pictures of them riding a horse with their uncle and great uncle, who had so kindly taken time out of their days to give her little ones a fun experience.
The photos were online and were from the evening before...there they were, her babies, looking happy and like they were having fun, but she could see the stress tucked beneath their smiles. And they looked so BIG. Her girl was sitting on the horse with her uncle, her mom's little brother, and her legs were nearly as long as his. Too fast. They were growing up TOO. FAST.
She occupied her time with a movie at the theater, but again came home to emptiness. She texted a friend, trying to occupy her mind. She was in a bad place - lonely, missing her little ones, lonely, sad, scared, lonely, scared. She couldn't stop thinking about what would happen when the little ones came home... she was now fully responsible for them, for their care while she worked, for their well being, for their safety. The other grown-up in their lives couldn't do it. He failed. He lost. Game over.
She began to cry, to sob uncontrollably. She needed the little ones, she felt vulnerable, she felt weak. She couldn't stand the silence of her existence without them. She went into their room and laid on the little boy's bed, smelling his pillowcase. She felt silly, as if she was mourning someone who had passed. But they were so far away... hundreds of miles away... too far away...
So she told her friend she was leaving. Now. She showered quickly knowing she probably wouldn't get another shower for a couple more days. Threw a few things into her backpack and told him she was on her way out. He told her to be careful, to drive safe. Of course, she knew the route to her hometown like the back of her hand. Who cared that it was 3:30 in the afternoon... she needed to be with her little ones.
Gas in the car and she was gone - no one to tell her no, no one to say it was a bad idea. She called work on her way out to let them know she wouldn't be in the next day, facing the possibility of retribution for missing yet another day. She didn't care. She needed to see her little ones, she needed to connect, she needed to feel them wrapped around her with their little tired hugs...
She had an eight-hour drive ahead of her. Wait, it was that many hours with little ones...this time she was alone. She would only need to stop once to gas up and pee. It would be faster. Much faster. Emotions of all kinds flooded her during the long painstaking trip to the town she called home from her birth until she was twenty-three years old. Wow. Such a long time ago. But it was still home, nonetheless. Cody, Wyoming... named after famed Buffalo Bill Cody, fifty miles east of Yellowstone Park. "Home."
Cody was where she met the little ones' dad... where they lived during happier times... where they lived when they were in love, when life was OK. It was life before the beginning of the end for the little ones' dad. The closer she got the more emotional she became.
Thoughts of moving back to "home" crept into her mind. She had family there who could help her out. She could maybe transfer there, employed with the same company. Cody had an airport. It was itsy bitsy, but it was an airport. Maybe. Shit no, she would never want to move back there, but then again she might not have any other choice. She was already strapped financially, and with no help whatsoever from the little ones' dad, she was now more strapped than ever. Just a thought. Ugh.
She was almost "home", the last, most grueling stretch of road on the whole trip. Thermopolis to Cody, lots of hills, twists, turns, highway patrol, and deer. Right away as she came onto the highway, a truck passed her. She called it The Guardian. It was getting dark and The Guardian was useful for two reasons... it was her pace car, and if anyone got pulled over for speeding it would be the one ahead of her to go first. Second, The Guardian was her first line of defense against deer or antelope. The Guardian's high-beams paved the way and kept them on a fast course through the winding hills of northern Wyoming.
The smell of clean Wyoming air came through the vents as a peculiar soundtrack played in her MP3 player. She imagined a movie being made and the songs that would be playing as she ventured to be with the little ones. She was getting close, looked off in the distance, and saw Heart Mountain. The mountain that protects Cody from the north, the one that looks like the face of a man laying down, was in view. She began to cry... she was so close she could almost taste it. The twilight of the evening and the clouds were lingering just right, for only a minute or two. The nose of the man who was Heart Mountain was barely touching the clouds that covered Cody's sky that night. Heart Mountain was but a silhouette against the sky, a brief message that the little ones were only a few minutes away.
The Guardian was ahead of her as they pulled into the familiar scenery of Cody, and it turned the direction she was headed. It guided her through the quiet, dark streets of Cody, turning in the exact direction she needed to go. It proceeded down her mother's street, guiding her until she turned away from its path at the driveway that had been unknowingly awaiting her arrival. She blew The Guardian a kiss, silently thanking it for helping her arrive safely to the sleeping little ones.
She entered the house, said hello to her mother, and went upstairs to where the little ones were sleeping. Eventually she schlepped the little girl into the little boy's bed, and the three of them squeezed in tight for the remainder of the night. There were surprised, sleepy hugs shared between the three of them. The touch she felt from their arms wrapped around her was pure magic... it was beautiful... it was exactly what she needed.
She would be heading back to her real home the next day. She didn't care that another seven-hour drive was ahead of her. The time spent with the little ones was precious. It was necessary. It was beautiful. It was Home.