Somewhere in the dark hollows of my disoriented sleepy brain, I hear a car door slam. My eyes adjust to the dim room and I take out my earplugs. What was that? What time is it?
Another slam, and my eyes are wide open. It’s 5:23pm. Dusk. Someone is in the driveway. Well, okay. We’re not expecting anyone, but this happens even out in the country. Deliveries, politicians, clean-cut-polite-young Mormons. How do they find us? The Bearded One is downstairs in the deep end of his own late-afternoon autumn nap after working on the road all morning, filling the first potholes of the year.
I’ll just peek out the window. No need to sound the alarm, but I need to check.
I squint through the branches of the cedar tree that hides our bedroom window. It’s a silver minivan parked at the end of the driveway. Our old neighbors! I see Batman circling the van, urging his parents out.
We knew they might drop by sometime this week from an errand they had close by. We invited them.
“They’re here!” I shriek to the Bearded One, but it comes out garbled. I take the little nightguard out of my mouth, wipe my sleepy spit, and quietly shout “They’re coming up the driveway!” I slip out of my warm bed and hobble to the bathroom. I clip my wild hair into a ponytail, and look into the dim mirror. What day is this?
The Bearded One moans. “Whaaaa?”
I bump into the bathroom doorway to holler down to him. “Hansel, Gretel, and Batman!”
“Honey, get up!”
The Bearded One mutters something, but I can tell he is up now because I can hear his belt buckle jangling.
I find my socks and slippers, and yank them on as I peek out the window. “All five of them are in the driveway!” I call out.
We love these kids — ages 9, 7, and 5 — and have missed them since they moved away this past June. We saw them for the first time in 4 months last week — was that just last week? They stopped by after Batman’s dentist appointment, and we took them up the trail to Jake and Ruby’s grave.
They marveled at the dark autumn forest, the branches and logs they had earlier hauled to line the edge of the trail, artifacts from ancient times.
I hear the toilet flush downstairs and I know that the Bearded One is functional. Garfield looks at me from the bed as if I’ve gone insane.
That’s when I wonder why I haven’t heard a stampede up the front deck steps, or even voices. I decide to check their progress one last time before going downstairs. I look out the window.
No van. No people. The driveway is completely empty. I heard nothing. This is impossible.
They must have decided we were napping, I think. One of us is usually outside or in the kitchen and greets them, and they are very thoughtful and know I sometimes take naps, but wow. It’s like I imagined the whole thing. I was pretty deep in sleep.
“Sweetheart?” I’m at the top of the stairs now, staring down at my half-awake husband. He has one boot on and has just tucked his own wild hair into his hat to greet our friends.
“I’m sooooo sorry,” I say. “They left.”
“But they were here!” I say.
“A dream?” he says and smiles a little.
He will milk this for days….