My phone rings at 4pm like it does most days now that my youngest daughter is 12 years old and old enough to come home from school alone, let herself into the empty house, and wait for me to get home.
I press the button to accept the call. The music on the radio stops, and Paige’s voice comes through my stereo speakers. “Can I go to Lizzie’s?” she asks, answering my unspoken question: Where will it be today?
Because, as it turns out, my 12 year old doesn’t come home from school alone, let herself into the empty house, and wait for me to get home. Instead, she calls from the bus and asks to go to Lizzie’s or Marlena’s or Olivia’s or Lauren’s or Leah’s or someone else’s house.
“Yes,” I tell her. “Have fun and behave.” After she tells me she’ll do both, I press the disconnect button. Music fills the car again, but I am not hearing it.
Instead, I am remembering six year old Paige greeting me with a song she learned from her kindergarten teacher, eight year old Paige meeting me at the door and excitedly telling me about how well she did on a math test, and ten year old Paige rushing to show me her newly acquired copy of the latest Diary of Wimpy Kid book.
Today, now that my youngest daughter is 12 years old, I come home from school alone, let myself into the empty house, and wait for her to get home.