When he did wake up, a few minutes later, he was sobbing. I got him from his crib, and the poor kid was inconsolable. His nose was still stuffy and he was slightly warm, but didn't seem to be sick other than that, and his two year molars have been giving him grief on and off for a couple months now, so I thought maybe it was that. It took me forever to calm him. He didn't want his diaper changed, or his teeth brushed, or to be put down for even the moment it would take me to pick up his shoes or his sippy cup of water. Despite my early start to the morning, we were ten minutes late by the time I was strapping him into his carseat. And then the sirens started.
I had carried him out to the car, but left my keys and all our bags inside, because he was so insistent about not wanting to be put down, and I couldn't carry everything at once. So I was texting the sitter to let her know we were running late, and explaining what the siren sound was, and debating whether to leave the car door open or closed while I ran back in the house to grab our bags (it was chilly out, and I couldn't tell if he'd be more comfortable closed up in the cold car or with the door wide open), and I was distracted and not really processing what was happening except, damn, that siren was getting awfully loud; maybe I should shut the door, does the noise seem to be scaring him? but no, not really, let me just get these bags and my keys so we can go, and by the time I got back to the car with everything we needed for the day the siren was silent, and we were fifteen minutes late by that point and so we set out on our way.
We drove up the hill, turned left, and then right at the stop sign, like we always do, and the intersection ahead was completely obstructed by a huge fire truck, and behind that I could just make out the blackened frame of a car that looked as if it had just recently been completely engulfed in flames. It all happened quickly, and we were so late, and I immediately began to reverse back around the corner to the stop sign so I could turn left this time and take an alternate route, that all I really remember is that the car was all black and grey, almost like an old movie made before technicolor, except that it was just the car that looked this way, nothing else around it, and somehow it had burned itself back into black and white.
We did the stop at the sitter's, and I left her the tylenol and instructions to text me if it seemed like he was sick instead of teething, and then I drove to a conference and spent all day immersed in a tool used to assess parenting skills. It was a busy day examining the research behind the instrument, and how we can use data to drive curriculum from rubrics describing four scales and fifteen subscales measuring various abilities related to literacy instruction. I went right from work to the chiropractor's office where I was promptly scolded for overdoing it after my appointment on Monday and told to lie down with my feet elevated and ice on my back for the rest of the evening.
I arrived home just before my husband, who picked up our son today since I had the full day conference followed by the chiropractic appointment. I did my best to lie down and still play with my boy, letting him crawl on me as long as it didn't hurt too badly, and reading book after book. My husband was kind enough to do bathtime and then the bedtime routine so I could continue to ice my back, but after he left our boy's room the little guy began to cry for Mama. I'm usually the one who does bedtime and it broke my heart to hear my boy cry for me on my night off, so I hobbled in, and cuddled with him in the big armchair rocker by the crib for a few songs from the lullaby CD.
It had been such a busy day, and so mentally demanding, that I had hardly taken a moment to think until I settled into that rocking chair, kicking up the feet so as to stay as close as I could to the doctor's recommended position and relieve the back pain that kicks into gear whenever I sit. And so it wasn't until this evening that I replayed the morning's events in my head and realized: we heard those sirens ten minutes after we should have been crossing that intersection. Our car was supposed to be right where I saw that black and white movie of a car, except that it wasn't a movie. It was a car, belonging to a person, and it had burned up until I couldn't tell what color it was supposed to be. I don't know what happened to the person, or people, who were inside the car. I don't know if anyone was hurt. I only know that we should have been crossing that intersection shortly before the sirens began to blare this morning. And that we weren't.
My heart began to beat harder in my chest while my daughter kicked a beat against my bladder like a little hamster running on a wheel, and my son shifted in the crook of my arm, adjusting and readjusting his blanket and snuffling his still stuffy nose. I pulled him closer to me and nuzzled the top of his head, while my other hand moved to my belly to feel my daughter's crazy kicks. Oh baby, I murmured into the top of his head, thank God you cried this morning. Thank God you made us late.