The hardest day of my life: I hadn’t been separated from Antonia and Jonah’s father for even a month when a horrible accident happened. Jonah, my three-year-old, had spilled his glass of milk all over my dining room floor about a half hour before it was time to take them to the police station, which at that time was the parent-exchange location every Sunday.
In retrospect, I should have left the stupid milk sprawled to lay where it may until coming back home from dropping them off. I should have been savoring that last half hour I had with them. But the milk on the floor bothered me. And I’m not even a neat freak, by any stretch of the imagination. Nonetheless, for whatever reason, I felt it needed to be cleaned up immediately. I would live to regret that small decision for a very, very long time.
As I moved all the dining room chairs into the living room, lining them up like a train so that I could mop, Antonia rose from the couch and tripped over her packed-and-ready-to-go duffel bag, landing directly on the edge of one of the chairs, the caboose of my train. In an instant, she was screaming and covered in blood. She’d knocked out her four front teeth in one fell swoop. Luckily, they were baby teeth, but that didn’t mean any less blood and pain and panic. I put a washcloth to her mouth to stop the bleeding and rushed her to the emergency room, calling her father from the road to meet me there.
Despite the snail-for-cars that exponentially delayed my trip to the ER, everything turned out okay. There was no permanent damage, just a mouth full of missing teeth. But she was still shaken up and hurting. As it was, this was already a painful time for her. Antonia was taking the separation of her parents especially hard.
Emergency room visit all taken care of, it was time for her and her brother to go with their father. We were all still very new to the idea of packing bags, loading up and saying goodbye to one another every weekend. But the goodbyes were by far the worst even under the best of circumstances. She looked up at me with her swollen upper lip and blood-crusted toothless face and asked me to come with her. She said that she didn’t want anything else in the whole world but for us to be together as a family that night. Just that one night.