They've grated the road. My tires kick up dust behind me in a violent, messy swirl. I come up from the little valley and crest the hill just as the bus flashes its lights and those two blond boys of mine come tumbling out.
I wait for the last golden head to appear but the bus just lumbers past, an ark without my Noa.
I feel a heat in my throat.
Who does that?
I don't do that!
I would never forget to pick up my own child from daycare!
I wave wild at the boys who have just emptied the mailbox and started down the driveway. "Get in the car! Get in the car! I forgot Noa!"
Liam says, "She might be a little bit mad at you, mommy!"
When they were babies, I would find myself reaching a flailing arm back over their rear-facing car seats to make sure they were still there because somehow my mind would imagine them cooing in a shopping cart at the grocery store even though I could clearly remember clicking them into their seat before unloading the potatoes into the trunk. Misplaced fear follows you until it finally punches you in the throat.
I retrace my path, stirring up the same dust that has barely settled from my first distracted passing and land, breathless, in front of the home that didn't forget her.
Thankfully, my daycare provider is a dear friend - practically an adopted sister - and she just laughs when I land disheveled in her yard, declaring, "Guess what I did?"
Noa is all forgiveness before I've even apologized. She gathers her bag full of Toy Story toys and waves goodbye to the friends who adore her and climbs up into the car to Liam shrieking, "Mommy forgot you!"
She just shrugs and I reach across her to fasten her seat belt.
She was never forgotten. She could never be. Just left behind for the blink of a moment.
"I love you," I whisper to her, kissing her forehead.
"Love you too," she says, grinning at me and all that dirt on her knees and her rubber boots smearing against the seat in front of her and she's had the best time ever and it doesn't even occur to her that she has grounds for upset.
I climb into the drivers seat, pull on my sunglasses and spin around to make sure I have everyone. One. Two. Three. "Are we ready to go?" I ask.
"Yup!" she says, smiling so big that her eyes turn to tiny crescent strips.
If somehow I could garner all of her grace, it would be more than enough to change the whole world!