Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Then the younger one places his palm on the rounded pink lid of Lydia’s perfume bottle, as if cupping a child’s head in his hand.

Maybe this was eight? nine? summers ago.

Just like this week, that long-ago week we abandoned our children (there were only two of them then) to the mostly watchful eyes of their maternal grandparents and headed back to our quiet paradise in the summery North, and, just like last night, thunder and lightning storms reduced our town and neighborhood to flying bits and pieces. (I say reduced but somehow the damage makes the area larger, forces me to grant it more of my mental map.)

Just like then, last night we had to find another way round to get to our home (trees, powerlines). And again, we were burdened with bags of groceries.

But last night was an easier trek. Only one path was blocked and the first detour we tried was clear. It was still light out. Our house, when we arrived, still had power. We weren’t hungry because we had just eaten dinner, complete with margaritas and gin & tonics, at a Mexican restaurant. There were no dogs to be concerned about. The cats and lizard were wholly unaffected by the noise and flashes of lights.

We put away groceries. M readied his boat for an early morning excursion. I cleaned around the house, knowing that the deflated balloons, Legos, books, karate gis, and headphones I tucked away would stay tucked for at least another five days.

I snuggled the cats. I watched TV. I listened to the last of the storms die away in the near distance. (The storms are scheduled to return for much of the week and this, I feel, is appropriate. I love storms when I have nothing to fear. When my children are with me, the fear default is always the first to click. When they’re not, I can enjoy the danger/not danger like I always have, and this is the hardest thing, some days, about being a mother. The fear default and its insistence that everyone is going to come to tragic ends under my watch.)

 

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