We head upstairs after getting home from dance class, ready to tackle bedtime. Tori follows me up the stairs, holding my hand tightly. She knows I’m leaving early tomorrow morning, before she wakes up. She’s well used to me traveling by now, but each night before I leave she holds my hand just a little bit tighter as we head off to bed.
Tori did her pre-bed routine, then hopped right into bed in just her underwear. “No nightgown tonight, Mommy!” She says. After almost six years I’ve tried to learn which battles to fight so I nod acceptance and then tuck her comforter around her, Princess Tiana’s face upside down the way she likes it.
“What lullaby do you want to hear?” I ask as I settle into the glider next to her bed, the one we’ve had since she was born, the one my best friend snuck into my house one day to put together while I was at work, the same one I accidentally bled on a little in the week after Tori’s birth.
“You pick,” She says, sighing, her eyes already drifting closed. I play with her hair as I sing “Goodnight Irene,” a song my mother sang to me. Tori listens, not quite dozing, until I finish and sing her favorite lullaby, which is oddly enough “Amazing Grace.” Five of the six verses.
Tonight Tori begins softly snoring as soon as I hit the second verse. I stay for a few minutes, watching her sleep, before I head into the bedroom and begin packing. I travel so often now that packing is routine, simple enough to do, just being careful to remember my work business cards as well as my personal ones, my contacts, my underwear, my nightgown since I’m sharing a room.
I love the work I do. I love traveling for work; I won’t lie. I enjoy the break, I love being able to be Cecily instead of Mommy or Wife or Daughter, the monikers that crowd my name away when I’m home. I’ll be in a fancy hotel right on the beach near Miami this time, and blue water is something that still feels mythic to me so I’m looking forward to this trip.
But the sweetest ocean breeze has nothing on the softness of my daughter’s hair, the rough and tumble of her hugs and kisses, or the joy of hearing her read a book.
I’ll miss my little girl while I’m gone. I haven’t even left for the airport yet, and my heart is already back home.