The phone rang at seven on Thursday. A small voice at the other end of the line said, “Can you come back, Nini? I miss you. I want you to put me to bed.”
I felt my heart contract and expand simultaneously. Even if I could see to drive at night and even if I did drive the hour to that small voice, she’d be sound asleep by the time I arrived. I’d be unnecessary.
I talked to her instead. I sent her kisses over the phone line and virtual hugs, describing where I’d plant those kisses – on her cheek, in her neck (she giggled), and on the top of her head. And I told her how tightly I’d hug her, how I was throwing those hugs into the air in her direction. All she had to do was catch them. “Did you get your kisses and hugs?” I asked.
“She can’t see you nodding,” my daughter whispered.
“Yes,” said the little voice. “Here’s your kiss,” and she made a loud smacking noise. The hug she sent was accompanied by the grunt of effort it took to launch her stranglehold into the air.
“I will be there on Tuesday,” I reminded her. “If you need extra hugs and kisses, Mama has lots stored up. Just ask her.”
“G’night, Nini,” the small voice called, probably from the stairs. “I love you.”
“Good night Lil,” I called back, and putting the phone down, wept happily into my hands.