I stayed up while the girls giggled late into the night. I checked often to make sure nobody was homesick and all the barbie shoes fit. I laid out a fine bed of pink comforters and fuzzy blankets, in a queen sized pile on the floor, just before I put the last movie on and coaxed everyone into pajamas. I delivered pickles and fresh band aids, iced water and hugs and finally, I demanded everyone just be quiet and lay still for a minute, because I knew if they did, they would sleep. A request for a glass of ice water came in and by the time I reached the top of the stairs again she was snoring. The last child peered through heavy lids and blinking eyes wanting a banana. She found four bites sufficient fuel for whatever dreams awaited.
At 2:40am I steal these last quiet bits of the night for myself. Like the last few minutes before getting out of the shower, where all the pertinent jobs are finished but I stand there letting the water fall down over me in white noise. Or when I pull in the driveway and the baby is sleeping in his car seat and I listen to the last part of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major before jumping out to hike the groceries in the house. These stolen minutes are the spaces in between the chaos, the long quiet corridor that leads from the rumpus room to the family room. Those stolen instances of calm, when everyone is taken care of and I stretch time slightly just for me, those minutes are sweet and they are mine.