What a tornado those kids can be getting ready for Summer Camp. They sure left their room a mess I doubt I’ll be bale to find a thing in it.

MONDAY, JUNE 9, 2008


The morning was starting as every morning had for the past two years. Mae slid a sweater over her head as she listened to Andy and Becky go through their morning ritual of fighting over the bathroom, their occasional cries of "MOM!!!" falling deafly on her ears. Mae walked to the dresser to put on her jewelry - earrings, necklace and bracelet. Her hand stopped and shook slightly over her wedding ring. It was a simple setting with a thin gold band and solitaire diamond, only about half a carat. She went through this ritual every morning. 

Over three years ago, she and the kids had been merrily decorating the house for Christmas. Becky had, with Andy's help, created a six-foot butcher paper banner that said "WelCome Home Ddady". The kids were 9 and 4, and Andy, the younger, was still grasping spelling. They were singing carols and laughing in expectation of Jack Q'West's return from his most recent trip to Alaska. Jack was a fisherman who owned a 60-foot boat rigged for salmon, halibut and crab. He spent about six months a year fishing from the Puget Sound to the Bering Sea, but he was always home for Christmas. It was a promise he and Mae made each other on their honeymoon. As they waited expectantly for his return, a knock came on the front door. 

A Coast Guard officer, a policeman and a rather mousy looking woman in a cheap skirt suit stood at the front door. Their grim demeanor made Mae's heart sink. Before the military man could speak, Mae turned to the kids and in a controlled but notably startled voice said, "O.K., Bec, Andy, upstairs, get ready for bed." Despite some minor grumbling, the kids went dutifully up the stairs. Turning back to the door, Mae hesitated before she said, "Please, come in." 

Three years later, Mae stared down at the wedding ring; Jack's boat had been lost in a storm in the Straits of Juan De Fuca and was never recovered. It took a year, but he and his crew were eventually declared dead. Fortunately for Mae and the kids, Jack had been a very good financial planner. Between the insurance from the boat, his life insurance and stocks, Jack had left his family well provided for. 

Mae rubbed her tearing eyes, sniffled and shook her head to regain her composure. She had promised herself that she would stop wearing the rings, but today was not that day. She slipped the small band and diamond on her hand and walked to the bedroom door. 

Sitting at the kitchen table, Mae picked up a big coffee mug, and cupped it in her hands. She glanced at the clock: 7:45. The kids' bus would be arriving at noon for camp - she smiled at the thought of two weeks all to herself. She noted the time and gave herself 20 minutes before she would need to finish up the packing and round up the kids. 

She the paper out in front of her and flipped past the national, business and local sections to Arts and Entertainment. Mae carefully removed and folded the crossword puzzle to set it aside for later. She then went to her favorite guilty pleasure. Ever since her college roommate Amy had done Mae's astrological chart, Mae had been mildly obsessed with her astrological sign, Capricorn. Its not that she really believed in the power of the stars or that they possessed some sort of mystical road map to the future, it was the allegory, the metaphors and the fun moments of coincidence that captured her imagination. She scanned down the list until she found the daily Horoscope for Capricorn. It read, "As you prepare for a long journey, you will be given the map to liberty. Heed the words of those who love you." Mae chuckled at the small chill that ran down her spine. The horoscope seemed to be speaking directly to her. 

Later, Mae stood on the walkway in front of their house in Edmonds, Wash. She saw the camp's bus rolling down the street. Andrew was standing next to her with a football in one hand, his other hand nervously knotting and un-knotting handfuls of her sweater. He was the shy one and almost always waited for his sister's lead. Becky had to take a last minute potty break. Just as Mae was about to call her daughter, a blur came bursting through the screen door, raced by Mae and snatched Andrew along with it. Becky was giggling and shrieking, "They're here, the bus is here. C'mon, let's go!!!" The bus pulled to a stop and Mr. Simmons, the camp's director, set the brake and came out to retrieve the kids' sleeping bags and backpacks. Becky ran back, slung her arms around Mae, kissed, and was bounding up the stairs of the bus a moment later. 

Andrew rotated away from the bus and back towards Mae. His look of trepidation tore at Mae's heart. She knew that he was scared, he was every year. But she was sure that like every other summer, he'd come back with stories of pirates, parties and new friends. With an unspoken understanding, Mae walked up, took Andy's hand and they walked together to the bus. Mr. Simmons gave Andy a cheerful greeting and trotted back to the driver's seat. 

Mae bent her knees to put herself at eye-level with her son. Andy embraced her and told her he loved her, an endearment she returned. He started to enter the bus but stopped. 

"Is everything okay, honey?" Mae asked. 

Andrew grabbed Mae's left hand and pulled gently on her wedding set, slipping it from her finger. Mae watched in amazement as he put the rings in her right palm and closed her fingers around it. 

"Daddy loves you and he's watching over all of us. But you always tell me camp is good because I get to make new friends and new friends are important. I think daddy wants you to make a new friend." He then reached up, brushed her cheek and boarded the bus. 

Mae turned away without waving - she didn't want Mr. Simmons to see her cr