It is time to go home.
It is always time to go home.
I just got here.
But it is time to go already.
I do not want to go.
I want to stay here with Daddy.
He says it is time.
I get my crayons and my coloring book and my jacket.
Viv comes with us to the door.
She is wearing her housedress.
It has light green flowers all over it.
She is smoking her cigarette.
She bends over to give me a hug.
She says, So long, Sweetheart. Loveya.
She smells like soap.
I keep my head down.
I can feel the big hot bump in my throat.
Daddy holds open the door.
I go out.
He says to Viv, Be home soon.
I can feel the burning in my eyes.
I do not want Daddy to see.
I am not a baby anymore.
Daddy opens the car door.
I climb up onto the back seat.
I say, I just got here.
He says, I know, Sweetheart,
But we’ll see each other soon.
I say, It is not soon.
It is far away.
He smiles and makes his shoulders go up.
That means he doesn’t know something.
He says, That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
I do not know what that means.
He always says things like that.
That’s the way the ball bounces.
That’s what makes horse races.
I do not know what makes horse races.
It is getting dark outside.
I say, Daddy, drive slow.
Daddy says, Okay, Barbs, I will drive slow.
Then it is quiet.
Then Daddy says, Barbs, how about if I turn here.
I say that is not the way.
He says, Oh.
He says, Okay, I will turn here.
I see the houses swing around the front window of the car.
I do not know these houses.
It is a different street.
It is not the street with the red building.
It is not the street with the swimming pool and the diving board.
It is not the street where the end is Good Deal and Cohen’s Hot Dogs.
Daddy says he forgets how to go.
He says I have to tell him.
He says if I don’t tell him, we will get lost.
I say, Daddy, turn here.
I see a street I never saw before.
I see different houses.
The houses are not the houses I always see on the way home.
The one with the pink birds on sticks in the front.
The one that has two round bushes that are exactly the same at the bottom of the steps.
The one that has a door but no windows.
Those are the ones that are on the way home.
I do not see those.
I do not know where we are.
Daddy says, Well, Barbs. We are lost.
I do not think we are lost.
I think Daddy is fooling me.
He says he does not know where we are.
He is being silly.
He is trying to fool me.
He really knows the way.
Daddy is so funny.
I say, Daddy, this is not the way.
He says I have to tell him the way.
I say I am not going to tell him the way.
I say I want us to be lost.
I say I want us to be lost far away, all the way lost in California.
Then it will take a long time to get home.
I will be with Daddy the whole time.
He turns down one street, then turns again.
I still do not know where we are.
I say, Daddy, you are driving a crazy, mixed-up way.
Now on Sundays when it is time to go home, I say, Daddy, can we go the crazy mixed-up way.
He says yes sometimes.
Sometimes he says there is not enough time.
He says if we want to go the crazy mixed-up way then we have to leave earlier.
Barbara Livenstein is a participant in Susan Hodara’s classes. This is an excerpt from her memoir titled “Girl on a Swing.”