It's getting to be that time of day. A casserole bubbles in the oven. Two little girls whine about wanting to eat the casserole. I see toys scattered around the floor and paint splattered on the table. We are tired, and we wait.
Finally, my oldest daughter shouts, "Let's hide, Mommy!" I scoop up the baby, and we follow her wherever she has determined is the best spot for the day.
Like me, she heard the hum of the garage door opening, the key turning in the lock, and she knows that Daddy is home. The three of us wait again until we hear him ask if anyone is there today, and, then, out we run, yelling, "Surprise!" The little ones clamor to be in his arms; I settle for a peck on the cheek stolen from between the chubby fingers and wayward curls of our daughters.
He's not really surprised since we act out this scene almost every evening around 5:30, but he plays along wonderfully as if he just can't believe we are there. I know he's just as excited to see us after being gone all day.
It's only been 11 hours. But, those are long when we are used to having him work at home. This new job that requires working typical business hours in a corporate office along with a one-hour commute is a relatively new endeavor for us. We are just a few months in, and we are all still adjusting.
Having Dad in the home office meant more freedom in how our daily life played out. He dropped off our four-year-old at preschool, which means I didn't have to get out early with the baby. He stole a few moments with the girls throughout the day, which means I managed to shower with the door closed. He took me out for a bite to eat on not-too-busy days, which means I ate something beside macaroni and cheese.
Yes, we miss those days. We are thankful for them. Because of them, everyday is a little more special now. And, that's why we celebrate. Nothing elaborate or even planned -- although my oldest daughter does keep a stash of homemade signs she's painted just for these occasions. The only names on the guest list are from our family of four and the menu is whatever happens to be for dinner.
After a long day, we all look forward to the mini celebration that comes when Daddy first walks through the door.
Which reminds me, I think I hear the doorknob turning, so I've got to go hide. It's time for a little party!
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