my house is empty this morning. totally empty. empty the way it used to be before quinlan. my dog, who used to fill up so much space in the house, seems lifeless in comparison to the kind of energy my son generates. i'm not sure how to feel about it. i love it. i know it's temporary. the minutes are ticking and the silence won't last more than another hour. i'll be chasing and smiling and hugging. i'll be a mom. i want to cry when i think of how much i love him and how much i want my freedom. i hate myself for not being more content. i already see my fifty-five year old self . . more time alone than i know what to do with and i regret my impatience. i'm sitting at a desk. it's cluttered and messy, just like all of my desks have been since i was a girl. i'm typing and sorting through scraps of papers when i stop to put my thesaurus back on the credenza behind me and i glance at a picture of my kids. quinlan is a man. his platinum blonde baby hair has mutated to a head full of sandy brown wavy locks, but his smile is the same. My soon-to-be-born daughter stands next to him . . . a woman . . . smiling with a closed mouth. she's tucked under his arm.

a squirrel rustles in the leaves on the tree outside my window and i try to imitate the way quinlan couldn't say squirrel until he was three and it came out sounding something like fierral . . . and then i remember skinny bare legs that needed kissing after a fall on cement, balloons that floated into the sunshine before i could anchor them to a wrist and ketchup and dirt streaked faces smiling at me . . . but i was rushed most of the time . . . rushed because i had things to do . . . i wanted to be a writer . . . i wanted to prove something . . . mostly to myself, but also to them. i wanted to prove i was more than my peanut butter stained sweatpants and tennis shoes full of park sand. i wanted to prove i was smarter than conversations about potty training and halloween costumes.

but now my books are on a shelf behind me. their smooth glossy covers are a testament to my perseverance, my creativity, my brilliance. my picture is on the back. sure, i'm a little wrinkly around the edges, but i've done it. i've done it before, and i'm going to do it again, but it doesn't have the whisper of new love on it anymore. it doesn't have the scent of my son's milky breath when i'd lean into his crib late at night. i should have known it wasn't going to last, but at the time it seemed like it would last forever. i thought i'd never see the end of screaming fits because i cut a sandwich in pieces that were deemed too small or put the milk in a blue cup instead of a green cup. i thought buying presents for birthday parties and the dropping off and picking up from school would never end. but it has. now, i can read the sunday newspaper in bed without listening to the sing-song voice of barney in the background. when i have to pee, i can be sure nobody will follow me in and ask what i'm doing. i can go to the movies anytime i feel like it. morning, matinee, midnight showing. because nobody needs me home to make dinner. nobody needs a tissue for a runny nose. nobody needs a haircut or a new pair of tennis shoes. now . . . it's just me and my books and my words. all of the words i've collected over the years. the words i stored away from the time i was young and i have all the time i need to unravel them.

my hands rest on the keyboard a little longer. i'm waiting for a sound. something to disturb my work, but it doesn't come . . . and i begin to type.