It began around 6. I was walking down the street and I began patting myself down, it was subtle at first. A tap to make sure my purse was at my side, a squeeze of the keys, then I touched my hip, my throat and then stopped to fully turn myself around and scan the street. I had my wallet, phone and keys. My fly was up and I wasn’t late.

I kept walking into the glare of the hidden-by-clouds, but still bright setting sun. My reflection stared back at me from the old, filmy windows. There I was, same as usual, mostly, a halo of humidity-curled-flyaways and my face. Still I stared. I realized as I stood there oblivious to the sounds and motions of the world around me, that I’ve come to see my reflection as geographical, comprised of all the elements that contribute to my whole.

The girls are at Camp Nana. When she offered up the idea of a 2-night stay my tummy did somersaults. Finish the laundry. Sleep in. Stay up late…finish sentences. Enjoy the company of quiet and calm. My next thought was that it wouldn’t happen, something would somehow catch the gossamer thread of a hope for a small break. I was embarrassed to need and want it with the desperation that I did. Then it came and they left.

I felt a phantom tug. Tugs. No girls.

And I am gone. The familiar lines surrounding me, Avery and Briar like small buttes to either side of me, Finley an extension of my core, her body so often pressed against me as her arms point to this thing or wave to that person. I am reed-like, bending in the force of their absence. I know I need this, the ache and the release. Sitting here weeping with missing, it’s a part of it. I’m remembering the girl I was before, the one whose greatest worry was finding someone to love her. Poor thing, little did she know she’d grow into a woman who worries that she’ll miss a single second of loving her babies.

Maybe they aren’t phantom limbs so much as they are true ribbons tethered to the center of everything that I am.

Tonight I just know that they are and aren’t here.