Creative Nonfiction

Special Time

A FEW MORNINGS AGO, I found myself wandering through my house, searching for my five-year-old son. “Where, oh where, is my beloved Jeffrey?” I cried. “I’m starting to get worried!”

What I was feeling, in truth, was not worry—I’d already spotted Jeffrey’s feet sticking out from the laundry pile—but rather the tense agitation of a trapped animal. There was no escaping the moments I knew must unfold before this game could end. First, I would need to pretend to look in all the wrong places: Is he in the closet? No. Behind the bathroom door? Nope. Then, I would have to disappear to a faraway room, as if thrown off the scent: I’ll just head down to the basement and search for him there. Finally, I would need to loop back upstairs, circling my child with escalating expressions of concern: I hope he hasn’t left the house on his own! I played out the charade, my gaze landing on the short story collection open on my nightstand, then flitting to the poem I was writing, a glimmer of tantalizing pixels on my laptop screen. I scanned each room for opportunities to multitask, grabbing water cups and straightening piles of books.

As the mother of three fun-loving children, there’s a secret I’ve long kept hidden: I do not like playing. While Jeffrey favors hiding games, Frances, who’s three, lately wants me to sit with her by her dollhouse. “Hi, Daddy!” her figure says to mine; “Hi, Mommy!” my figure says to hers. We wiggle our dolls a little as we make them talk. Louisa, my nine-year-old, likes to round up her siblings and pretend they are baby cheetahs. She works me into the game as the kind veterinarian. I peer into their ears with a plastic otoscope. More often than not, I wish I were doing something else, that my mind could be somewhere else.

“Daddy’s home!” I shout when my husband Paul walks

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