But here's a little something that just came to me...
She's been this way as long as I can remember.
When I was about three I noticed it for the first time. I was supposed to be asleep but I woke up because I wanted Mama to rub my back some more. I climbed out of my crib and followed the sound of Sugarland to my parents' room. Daddy is policeman and he worked at night so he wasn't there. I thought I'd crawl in bed next to Mama but she wasn't there either. I saw a light from a crack in the bathroom door. I had a baby brother so I knew to be quiet at night. I tiptoed over to the door and looked in. Mama was in the bathtub, surrounded by bubbles that smelled like the vanilla cupcakes she made me on Sundays. She had a funny-shaped glass in her hand and she was staring blankly at the wall. She looked strange compared to her usual smiling, talking, playful self. I sat down on the floor, with my head against the doorjamb and watched her do nothing until I fell asleep. I vaguely remember being carried back to my crib later on.
Shortly after I turned five and my brother was two, I learned that being a police officer is a dangerous job and I became incessantly worried about my father's safety. One day, I decided to talk to him about it.
It was breakfast time and Daddy was reading the morning paper. I got down out of my chair and walked around the table to climb into his lap.
"Daddy, are you scared?" I asked.
"Scared of what?" He asked looking right at me and bouncing his knee.
"The bad guys."
"You mean the ones I have to deal with at work?" When I nodded solemnly, he rubbed my hair out of my eyes. "Sometimes I think about the bad things that could happen, but then I think about you and your brother and your mama and I remember to be brave. I've got to be brave so I can outsmart the bad guys and keep you guys and everybody else's family safe. Being brave is more important than being scared."
"Who keeps you safe?" I wanted to know.
"My partner, my bulletproof vest, my gun, my fast car, and God."
I thought about this while I ate a piece of toast. "What happens if you're trying to catch a bad guy while we're at home sleeping and something bad happens? How will we know you need help?"
"I tell you what: I'm going to give you a big-girl responsibility. You know how to answer the phone, right? Well I'm gonna teach you how to call my cell phone."
He set me on the edge of the table and went to get his cell phone and the cordless phone for the house. "You know all your numbers, right?" He asked teasingly. Then my dad taught me how to turn the phone on, listen for a dial tone, punch in his ten-digit cell phone number and wait for an answer. We practiced three times and then he taped the number to the table in the hallway where I could see it.
"You can call me one time a night if you need to talk to me. If I don't answer it means I'm busy with work and I'll call you back if I have time. But make sure you ask your mama for help first, okay?"
I told him I understood and then gave him a big hug.
"You probably shouldn't call him every night, pumpkin, unless something is really wrong," Mama brushed some crumbs off of my face and then kissed my forehead.
Two weeks later, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I looked into my parents' room and noticed that Mama wasn't in her bed. I had seen this at least a dozen times since I was three, so I knew she was taking a bath. I went and looked to make sure and then went to get the phone. I didn't worry about being heard because the music was on and the phone was downstairs. I dialed Daddy's number and hoped that he would answer. He did, on the second ring.
"Daddy, it's Des."
"Desiree, why are you awake?" He asked gently.
"I had to go to the bathroom. Mama's sad."
"What do you mean, sugar? Isn't she asleep?"
"No. She's in the bathtub staring at the wall and drinking out of a grown-up glass."
Daddy sighed. "She's okay. Go back to bed and we'll talk about this tomorrow."
"Daddy, she's sad."
"I know, baby, but don't go in there unless you need something or if your brother cries. Just go back to sleep. Do you hear?" His voice wasn't harsh, but I knew not to argue.
"Thanks for calling, Des. I love you. I'll take care of Mama when I get home."
"I love you too." I hung up the phone and went back upstairs.
Daddy and I didn't talk about it the next morning. Mama woke me up with her usual cheerful song and dance. She made us pancakes and smiled a lot. She and Daddy kissed twice and they looked so happy, I forgot to say anything.
In my head there is more of this, but I should go to sleep.