At 4:00 I walk out to my Jeep baking in the sun. I get in and slam the door shut behind me and take that first deep breath. The day is over, I've made it, I'm done. I roll down the windows, turn the music up loud to drown out my thoughts, and put the car in drive.
As I head down the road towards the daycare I can't help but bask in this alone time. The quiet swirls around me, the wind blowing my hair in my eyes. I'm alone and it's glorious. For ten minutes it's just me as Sarah and nothing else - not the wife, not the mother, not the editor.
At 4:08 I pull into the daycare parking lot and I take another deep breath, preparing myself to go into mom mode. I put my code in and pull open the heavy door, hearing the shouts and screams of children of all ages in the various classrooms. His room is the first on the right and just as I'm about to push the door open I feel the excitement start to take over and I'm suddenly anxious to walk through the door, to see him, to gather him up in my arms.
I walk in and am overcome by the children running around, the loudness of it all. I scan the room eagerly looking for him, hoping that he'll see me, too. I spy him over in a corner playing quietly with the rubbery dinosaurs. Talking to them, handing them to his classmates. He doesn't see me.
"Henry, look who is here!" calls one of his daycare teachers.
His little head pops up and the grin that overtakes his face is immediate and all consuming. I can't help it, I grin back.
"Mommy!", he shouts as he throws the dinosaurs down, completely forgotten. He runs at me full speed and leaps into my arms just as I crouch down to grab him. The force of it all knocks me backwards and I find I'm sitting now, with his arms around my neck. His legs wrap around me automatically and I breathe him in. He is my third deep breath, the best one.