May 30, 2008, approx. 8:15 p.m.
The day had started before 6 a.m. Dad had driven out the night before in his minivan (I'd never been so glad that my parents lived a scant 75 minutes away), to crash at our house before we got up at oh-dark-stupid in order to be on the road by six, traveling south, towards Georgia.
We were on our way to meet up with my brother and his little girls. His very little girls. The oldest was about seven weeks shy of her third birthday. The twins were just barely one and a half. We would meet somewhere halfway-ish, have lunch, and basically transfer the contents of my brother's car to my dad's van...and my brother would head back to Augusta. The girls, Dad, my husband and I would all head north, back to our home.
My brother had called a couple of weeks before, stating that his wife had (once again) decided that she wanted nothing more to do with him, or marriage, and specifically, marriage to him. His and the girls' legal residency was still PA. And, having determined that her threat of divorce was actually serious this time, he wanted to get the girls back to PA before his estranged wife could do something stupid and keep them all in GA. However, he didn't have the money to move back yet. They'd only moved to GA, to be with his wife during her training, at the end of March.
Was our offer, to take in the girls if they needed a place for awhile, still good? We were, after all, their godparents.
My husband assured my brother that the offer was still open. They hammered out a plan: my brother would work like crazy for six weeks (or so) to earn up enough money to move back, and then he'd have another six weeks (or so) to get a full-time job, a place to live and be ready to take back his girls.
So here we were. Tired. Weary. Hungry. Home.
My youngest niece was the first one into the house, still in her carseat. At 22-ish pounds, she was still in a rear-facing seat. And when 20-lb, 10-year-old Popoki, gentle giantess and understandably curious about this new "thing" in her house, poked her head over the edge of the carseat to sniff at my niece, she screamed in terror. (To her credit, Po was pretty unruffled.)
I shooed Po away, and got my niece out of her carseat, lifting her into my arms and holding her, trying to comfort her.
By the time everyone got inside, fear and hunger were overpowering the girls. All three were in tears. I was in tears. They were scared. I was terrified. My only "kids" were my cats. And they slept when they wanted to, ate what I put in front of them, were healthy, and were potty trained.
Of course...the phone rang.
It was my sister, in Boston. Five months pregnant with her first son, she wanted to know how we were doing. What had I gotten myself into?
I'm quite sure she heard the wailing of the girls in the background. And probably my sniffles as well, if the girls didn't drown me out.
"You've gone from zero to hero," my sister commented.
I'd never felt less heroic in my life.
We wrapped up our conversation and I told her to be sure to say hi to her hubby for us.
We tried to get the kids to eat. They were hungry, but their fear kind of overwhelmed their stomachs. We got them to eat enough that I figured they could get through the night without hunger waking them up, and we got them ready for bed.
Once upstairs, panic ensued again, and cats scattered. The twins couldn't bear to be in separate pack-n-plays, even if they could see each other through the mesh sides. So I put them together, in one. We hugged them. Kissed them. Made sure the nightlights were on. Wished them a good night's sleep.
When Dad said that he'd decided to spend another night, I cried in relief. I'd been married and on my own for almost twelve years, but I didn't want my daddy to go home yet.
Fifteen minutes later, the desperate crying of three scared little girls was still going on.
"Perhaps," Dad said, "you could play music in their room. That might help them calm down."
I found a spare clock radio, tuned it to the classical station that we get out of Maryland, set it to a low volume, and plugged it in. A push of the sleep button turned the music on for 59 minutes. It took a fraction of that time for the girls to settle down and fall asleep.
We waited until we were sure that the girls were asleep. Then I got Dad a sheet, pillow and blanket so he could bunk down on the couch, given that the futon he'd slept on the night before was in what was now the girls' bedroom. And we all crashed.
I couldn't help but wonder.
How on earth was I going to do this for twelve weeks?