Mark and the girls are on their way back home.
A long drive. Ten hours.
I hadn’t heard from them, so I called Mark’s cell phone. Just to say hello.
He picks up, “Hello?”
I am not even able to greet him, because I hear screaming in the background, “Daddy! You know the rules! You are not allowed to talk on the phone while you are driving! Give me the phone, Daddy! Right this instant! Give me the phone.”
That would be Maj.
Mark says, “I am passing the phone to Maj. Love you, babe.”
And then there is Maj, “Why do you call Daddy’s phone when you know that he is driving? Call my phone. I’m not driving. Geez, Mother.”
“Hey, Maj! How’s the trip going?”
“Fine. Kallan is eating way too many snacks, and she has been watching movies the whole time. The whole time, Mother. Do you know how many movies that is?”
“Yes, well . . . You know how antsy your sister gets in the car on long road trips. Do you really want to take away her movies?”
“No, she would just annoy me. But still, Mother . . . seriously? Ten hours of movies on the way down and then ten more hours of movies on the way back? Doesn’t she have homework or something she should be doing?”
“Listen, Maj. I’m not there. Daddy’s in charge. So if Daddy said that Kallan could watch endless movies? That’s Daddy’s decision. If she has homework she didn’t do, that’s her problem. Not yours.”
“Whatever. DADDY, YOU ARE DRIVING TOO FAST! I CAN SEE HOW FAST YOU ARE DRIVING, AND YOU ARE DRIVING TOO FAST!”
I hear Mark’s voice, all reasonable, “I am driving with traffic, Maj. The speed limit is 65. I am fine.”
Maj speaks calmly into my ear, “Hold on, Mother.”
And then I hear her yell, “DADDY! THE ROAD IS SLIPPERY AND THERE ARE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS! SLOW DOWN TO BE SAFE!”
I laugh, “Maj, leave Daddy alone. Stop yelling at him.”
She returns to the phone, “I am not yelling at him. I am informing him. Not the same thing.”
Oh my god, how happy am I to not be in this car?
Maj again, “You want to talk to Kallan? She’s going to be mad at me if I don’t hand her the phone. But guess what? She is also going to be mad about having to pause her movie. So whatever. KALLAN!”
And then there is Kallan, with a sleepy little-girl voice, “Hi, Mommy.”
“Hey, baby girl! Where are you guys right now? About halfway?”
“I don’t know, Mommy. We’re in the middle of nowhere, seems like. We’ve been in the middle of nowhere for a long time. There is a lot of nowhere.”
“It’s about time for lunch, right?”
“Yeah, but Mommy? In the middle of nowhere? There are no places for lunch. Daddy always manages to be in the middle of nowhere when it’s time for lunch. I’m hungry.”
“Do you guys still have snacks?”
“Yeah, we have snacks.”
Maj yells from the background, “Yeah, we have snacks, but Kallan had way more than her fair share of them. She should not be having any more snacks. What she needs are some vegetables.”
Kallan whispers into the phone, “Maj is still very bossy, by the way.”
“Yes, I can hear that.”
Maj is in the background again, “PUT ON THE WIPERS! DADDY! PUT THEM ON! IF I CAN’T SEE, YOU CAN’T SEE! WHAT IF THERE ARE HAZARDS? PUT ON THE WIPERS!”
Kallan giggles, “I miss you, Mommy.”
“YOU ARE GOING TO DRIVE THROUGH THAT PUDDLE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHY ARE WE RIGHT NEXT TO THIS TRUCK? MOTHER DOESN’T LIKE US TO DRIVE NEXT TO BIG TRUCKS.”
“Hey, Kallan? I miss you guys. Can’t wait for you to get home. I’ll see you tonight, OK?”
“OK, Mommy. Bye.”
Before she hangs up, I hear Maj again, “I AM NOT GOING TO LOOK FOR PLACES TO EAT LUNCH UNLESS YOU MOVE TO THE RIGHT. YOU CAN’T SWERVE US OVER ACROSS LANES IF I SEE A MCDONALD’S. GET TO THE RIGHT, DADDY!”
And then Mark, “Maj, just look ahead a little bit. I’m not going to go flying off the freeway like a fool. Have a little faith, babe.”
And then Maj, “FINE. IF YOU DON’T . . .”
And then the connection is broken.
Oh my god.
Oh my god, I miss them.