G a i l

Age 4

4 years, 2 months (November) –Mama gone for 3 months-

Jojo and I have a piece of paper.  It has lots of lines on it.  Each night, before I get into bed, I go to Jojo, and we put another line on the paper.  When Mama comes home again, we’ll stop drawing lines and throw the paper away.

I go to preschool now.  I remember my first day.  I was worried about meeting new kids.  When Daddy tried to drop me off, I hung onto him.  Then a lady came over to us.  She had blue eyes, pink lipstick, a lot of teeth, and a loud voice.  She got down on her knees, so her face was right next to mine.  Her perfume filled the air around me and reminded me of a mama-smell.  “What’s your name?” she asked.  I couldn’t find my voice.  I just stood there, staring into her ocean-blue eyes.

Then I heard Daddy say, “Tell the nice lady your name, Ladybug.”  He knelt down next to me, and that made me feel safe.

“Gail,” I whispered, not daring to look at Blue Eyes.

“Well – Gail – we are so happy you’re here!” said the lady, her voice warm and big.  “I’m Mrs. Lindstrom, but you can call me Mrs. L.”

She took me by the hand, and I saw her look at Daddy, now with serious blue eyes.  He looked back at her and then let go of me.  I instantly missed him.  “Daddy,” I called once, as he started to walk away.  My voice sounded small to me.  He smiled and waved and then kept walking.  I felt my eyes burn as I watched him.  But I didn’t cry.  I just kept holding onto Mrs. L’s hand, and I touched Mama’s necklace that hung around my neck.  Mrs. L let me stand there, until he turned the corner and disappeared.  Then she gently tugged at my hand.

I looked up at her, and she was smiling.  “Come, Gail.  Let’s see what the others are doing.”


I like preschool now, and I love Mrs. L.  Every morning when Daddy drops me off, she looks happy to see me.  She’s never tired and never mad.  At the beginning, I wanted to hug her, but I didn’t dare.  But now I know it’s ok.  So I run and hug her every morning.

I have a friend named Shane.  We do everything together.  We play, eat, and every day, race each other to the swings.  Sometimes Mrs. L pushes us on the swings, and it feels like flying!

Whenever I feel like laughing out loud, I suddenly remember that Mama isn’t at home.  I suddenly remember that Daddy’s sad and that I’m not supposed to be happy.  Then I pull myself back and vanish from the world, like a groundhog running into its hole in the earth.  My thoughts rush and hide in deep, dark tunnels in the underground of myself.


When I’m not at preschool, I’m busy at home.  Things are a mess there.  Since Mama left, Daddy’s been counting on Jojo and me to help out.  We do our best, but there’s a lot to do because the twins are growing, and we’re a big family.  When I do jobs around the house, I usually need to stand on a crate.  Jojo’s bigger, and he doesn’t need a crate.  I dry dishes and cook and clean up.  I make my bed and keep my room neat.  I also know how to change the twins’ diapers.

Aunt Nora comes over every day to help out.  Mama was living with her for a while, we heard, but one day, Aunt Nora told us that Mama was gone.  Where, nobody knew.  Why, also nobody knew.  She’d left a note for Aunt Nora that said,

Nora, thanks for everything. I’ll be in touch.  Love, Maddie

That’s what Mama wrote.

She had also left a note for Daddy, when she left us.  It said,

John, this is more than I signed up for.  It’s better if I go.  Tell John Jr., Gail, Constance, and Tim that I love them.


P.S. The necklace is for Gail.

Mama writes a lot of notes.

Aunt Nora is Mama’s big sister.  She doesn’t look like Mama because she’s short, and Mama’s tall.  Aunt Nora has blond hair, Mama has brown hair.  I’m glad Aunt Nora comes over to help us.  She takes the twins to daycare, so that Daddy can drop me off at preschool and still get to work on time.  At the end of the day, she picks up the twins and brings them home, and Daddy picks me up and brings me home.  Jojo is on his own.  He has a house key.


I take care of a lot of people.  I take care of the twins.  When they cry, I change their diapers or play with them.  When they’re hungry, I feed them.  I take care of Jojo.  I help him with jobs around the house and bring him a tissue when he’s sad and crying.  I let him think he’s taking care of me, and I show him that I love him because he’s the best big brother in the whole world.

I take care of Daddy, too.  I sit with him on the couch, even if I’m tired, because I know he’s lonely.  I pretend not to mind when he smokes.  I force myself to stay awake when he reads me a story at night, even if my eyes feel heavy.  I don’t ever, ever ask him about Mama, even though I think about her all the time.

But sometimes I’m alone, and I like that.  I look out the back window at the bunny rabbits hopping across the grass and the squirrels chasing each other up and down trees.  When it’s nice outside, I like to explore.  I don’t go far because Daddy and Aunt Nora told me I need to stay close to the house.  But I always wonder what’s out there, in the places I can’t see.