“When should we call?” she asks, as we tuck hairbrushes and toothpaste into the overnight bag, and I remind her brother that actually, “a change of clothes” generally includes underwear, as well.
“Honey, you’re gonna be gone, like, a DAY. A day and a half. You don’t need to call. Just go have fun with Daddy.”
“But I LIKE to call,” she says. “We’ll call you tonight after dinner.”
“That’s fine, you’re welcome to call,” I answer, “but we’re going to a movie tonight, so we might not be here. And then we’ll have our cell phones off, too. So don’t worry if you call and we can’t answer.”
She pretends to pout. So I pretend to bite her cheek, and she laughs and pushes me away.
Daddy arrives and chaos ensues. The children are running around us in circles, remembering items they want to bring with them, hanging on their dad, and generally acting like I gave them espresso for breakfast.
“So we’ll call you TONIGHT,” she says, again, as if we didn’t just have this conversation five minutes ago.
“Yes, FINE, but we might be at the movies,” I remind her.
“What are you going to see?” asks my ex.
“Not a rated-G movie! Not an animated film! Woo!” Containing my glee is not my strong suit. “The James Bond movie,” I finally answer.
“I heard that wasn’t very good,” he responds.
My daughter looks at him, and then at me. I cock my eyebrow at her. “Your father is trying to rain on my parade,” I say, mildly. “But it’s not working! Because right after you leave I’m gonna run around the house naked, and then tonight I’m going to a grown-up movie with Otto and we’re going to eat popcorn until we explode!” She laughs, and her brother joins in, and all is well.
They leave. (I don’t actually run around naked. But I’m pleased to know that I could, if I wanted to.)
After the movie we have a message on Otto’s cell: “Really? Will you really call me back? Dude, you’re supposed to pick up the phone. Well, your message said you would call back so CALL BACK! Okay, BYE!”
And on the home phone: “Dude! You are not supposed to be gone! You are supposed to be home! Ooohhhhhhhhh. I’m so sad! I will try Otto’s cell phone. But if you’re not there, BYE! I LOVE YOU! Talk to you tomorrow!”
It’s late, so we don’t call back.
This morning, we go out to breakfast. She calls, says she called home first, and we chat briefly. They are fine.
When we get home, we listen to the message on the home phone: “DUDE. Exactly HOW LONG is that movie, anyway?”