The Alive-end Route

My kids spent this past week at YMCA day camp, cute little
campers with sunscreen plastered noses, dusty knees, dirty shirts and ketchup
rimmed smiles.

Their counselor's names–Bubbles, Shasta and Twister. Jordan has a crush on the game leader, Kimgee and tells me how she helped him with canoeing and archery. He shot a bull’s eye on the first day.
Maddi's love–swimming and singing campfire songs. They carry home-made crafts,
kites and beaded necklaces.

Driving home from camp, Maddi says to her brother in the
back seat of the truck, "I wish daddy could pick us up." Her tone is
nonchalant as if she's just asked him for some water.

"Me, too,"

Jordan replies knowing exactly what
she means.  "Then he'd never be late cuz he'd have his police

"And he could drive fast." Maddi finishes her
brother's sentence.

I drive, peering in the rear view mirror wondering if I am
really that late. Self-conscious I assume this is a reflection of me, until I
notice how many other dads are coming straight from work to pick up their kids.

Maddi hands Jordan a bag of left over pretzels from lunch, taking one for herself she tells him,
"We wish our daddy could get us, right Jordan? But, he can't cuz he's not in real life."

"Nope, he can't." Jordan says.

It's then that I feel like I'm swimming in an Olympic-sized
pool. The water blocks out the other noises of kids splashing, yelling,
laughing loudly. All I can hear is the vast, echoing swish of the water
covering my ears.

It reminds me of the rain stick we bought in Costa Rica, the one Shawn warned me was too big to carry home. The one he said he'd end up carrying on the plane. But, I loved the hand painted design and the soothing sound it made. I had to have it and he rarely said no to me even when he was right–the rain stick journeyed back to Minnesota strapped to the outside of his backpack. Mildly annoyed he never said a thing, secretly I think he liked the stick as much as me. My
thoughts filter like falling pebbles. One
time I think.
Why couldn't he pick up our kids just one time?

"Mom," Jordan says as I drive around a cul-de-sac,
"What does that sign say?"

"Dead-end," I tell him. "Oops…I took a wrong turn."

"Well…we should find an alive-end then," he

His humor always brings me back, he doesn't even know he's

"What's a rain stick good for?" I ask, hoping this directs me.

“Making rain?” Maddi asks.

"Making a band!” Jordan says with limbs in motion up
and down as if he's marching.

Maddi thinks a bit before sharing, "It’s
a magic wand."

The game works for the moment. And so we drive accompanied
by marching bands and magic wishes–rain sticks and life-filled conversations…taking the alive-end route back home.

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