the Call

“Someone has a stinky?”

Three toddlers scrambled away from her. The room filled with giggles. It was one of those moments…giggles filled her heart, as fatigue filled her body. Her life had become an oxymoron. Dinah had provided child day care for over thirty years. Some of her first “babies”, had returned with their own. She felt as though she had influenced many children in such a positive beginning and she had done well. Only lately, she had visions of solitary places. Flashes of comfort much like the first touch of cool sheets on a hot summer evening.

“I want it!”

“I had it first!”

{Screech!!!!!!!!}

“Hey, screeching is NOT allowed here! I’ll just put the umbrella up until later.”

Dinah’s hands had grown stiff and gnarled with arthritis. Wrestling the umbrella from the toddler tug-of-war shot pain up to her shoulders. When did that happen? The repeated acts of shoe tying and diapering, not to mention, buttoning , snapping and zipping, left her hands throbbing at day’s end. Quiet…peace and quiet, someday…

“Phone,phone,phone!”

Dinah hadn’t heard the phone. No matter how busy and loud the house was already, a phone call prompted even higher voices alerting her to what she already knew.

She sighed, “Always in the middle of stinky business .” Then struggled up to her feet, bagged diaper in hand, to answer the phone. The phone was silent. The little light flashed signaling a missed call.

“Heck, I don’t care who it was. People just can’t understand that I’m working at home. You’d think they’d realize after all this…

The dog barked and as she swooped the “diaperee” into her arms, a knock at her door. Had it been a month already? The Jehovah’s Witnesses stood grinning and waving through the window. They were squinting their eyes playfully and added their own finger prints by tapping the glass . A pint-sized  greeting committee already blocked the doorway.

Dinah had always secretly enjoyed their visits. Old friends, adults, a break…But today they couldn’t be anything more than a nuisance. She waved her hand in the signal that they had developed for, “I am to busy!” They pointed to the Watchtowers  they would leave on the step  and  walked away.

“Phone,phone, PHONE!”

The only thing worse than those screaming “phone alerts” was the squealing party that accompanied the vacuum cleaner. If they were unable to drown out the vacuum completely, the oldest ones knew how to raise the volume on the TV to supersonic.

“OK guys! I know the phone is ringing. Hey the block box is out, who will build me a BIG tower?” Dinah really didn’t hear the phone that time either. Well, it was Friday and maybe she was becoming selectively deaf  at week’s end.

The receiver was blinking. Who the heck was calling her? She pressed the “missed calls” button and the light went out. By this time, Ava had a handful of baby wipes taken from a diaper bag and Kevin was after the dog dish! Why hadn’t she thought to pickup THAT DOG DISH?

“After thirty umpteen years, you’d think I’d learn.”

Dinah just sighed and wiped up the water, changed the child “top to bottom” and wondered what the other mother would think when she discovered the entire pack of baby wipes waded back into the neat little monogrammed container.

“Phone,phone!”

OK! There was no phone ringing and THIS had to stop!

Out of the corner of her eye the telephone was blinking. Dinah picked up the receiver and said,”Hello?”

“Hello?” came a whisper.

“Who is this?”

“Please…won’t you play with me?” The whisper sounded more like a distant child. “Is this Megan? Honey, where’s mommy?”

“I love to draw and read and write poetry.”

“I do too but I haven’t time sweetie. Do you need something? Where are you?” There was something very familiar in that voice. If only she could figure out which of her kids it was?

Suddenly a dial tone blasted from the ear piece. Dinah hit redial hoping to find out about the child’s whereabouts and if she were safe. 555-9971 flashed on the screen…where had she heard that number before?

“Kevin has the CDs!!! Help!”

“MINE,MINE!”

Dinah was startled back into the present and realized that there was much getting past her today. The CDs were all over the living room and toddlers were grappling over them. She turned as the 1-year-old retrieved the used coffee filter off of the over flowing waste basket. She lunged but to late, the grounds hit the floor with a splat. She scrambled to the sink and before the dish rag was able to swallow the whole mess, the dog ran through it.

“Phone, PHONE!” By now the infant was screaming for his delayed breakfast. The” phone alert” was some how easier to take.

“Guys, everyone gets a freeze pop if they can play the “quiet game” for two minutes.”  Realistically all she could hope for was 30 seconds but it worked. Even the infant must have understood. ALL was quiet. The phone was blinking.

“Hello?” she was loaded, anxious.” Heaven help him if it is a telemarketer!”, she thought.

“I remember you…do you remember me?”

There was an electric shock of realization. Her hands trembled and her knees buckled.

555-9971 was her phone number when she was child…and the voice was her OWN!

“Is this Dinah?” Her voice cracked.

“Yes, It’s you and I. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried to reach you!”

Candid camera had been off of the air for years…Dinah sat on the floor and put her head between her knees.

“Please…won’t you play with me?” The line went dead.

After a long moment, Dinah answered,” I miss you too sweetie.”

—————————————————————————

As Dinah cast her line, a breeze rippled across the pond. It was so quiet she could hear the grasses swaying. Her hands rarely bothered her since she retired and that novel inside of her was finally  taking shape…

“Knock, knock! Dinah, are you here?”

She jumped up to meet a mother with a child in an infant seat at her door. She must have overslept!

The mother walked in and set the baby on the table. “Where do these weekends go? I just hate Mondays! ”

Dinah jiggled the baby’s toes. “I think someone has a stinky?”, she whispered to herself.

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