A Clean Slate

Caroline is my Etch-A-Sketch. No matter the drawing I've created each day, my first interaction with her after being apart erases whatever it was I previously had on my mind. It's usually a tiff with Andy, an uncomfortable argument about money or cleaning, that is comically broken by Caroline either doing something to endanger herself or doing something so incredibly hilarious that we have to stop being so serious to laugh.

The last two weeks, it has been work that Caroline shakes off my brain. These challenges fester on the ride home and I have 30 minutes to analyze my co-workers and re-play my discussions, questioning my decisions and evaluating my actions. Did I overstep myself in that meeting? Does my boss like me? Do I make enough money? Darn, I forgot to call that guy back, what did he want anyway? I have so much work to do tomorrow! What do I have to do when I get home?! Blah. Blah. Blah. My Etch-A-Sketch fills with zigs this way and zags that way, up and down and around in circles. It's so full of worries and planning that it's a dark, dark gray. The screen is almost completely full and doesn't resemble much other than a black cloud.

And then I pull into the driveway of the daycare and open the door to the play yard. Our eyes meet and she runs to me, throwing her arms around my neck. She says as clear as day, "Mommy!" My Etch-A-Sketch flips upside down. "Mommy." She squats down and points at her shoes. Her dirty little hand rests on my shoulder. The Etch-A-Sketch shakes, shakes, shakes the scribbles away.

The rest of my car ride home is very different with Caroline. We wave to the family riding their bikes. I ramble down a list of questions, "How was your day? Did you play? Did you take a nap? Did you go outside?" Her answers are limited to yes, no, nodding and a few nonsensicals. It's the best conversation I've had all day.

We pull into the driveway but don't get out of the car. I turn off the ignition and turn up the stereo. She hops in the driver's seat and bounces to the beat while I catch up on my ladies magazine, sing and dance the Cabbage Patch. Shake, shake, shake your worries. Shake 'em right out. My old Etch-A-Sketch image is gone but we are starting to draw a new picture. This one is of a house and an apple tree and a little girl and her mommy playing under a big sun. No worries. No work. A clean slate.

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