I pick Jesse up from school. She’s tired, so tired, so utterly fatigued, like she is every day for now. Recovering from Lyme disease and pneumonia is going to take a long, long time.
She sits quietly in the back seat during the 5-minute drive home. I eye her from the rear view window, gauging whether she’s depressed or just tired. We chat about lunch, which has always been a difficult time for her. She’s still too afraid to eat in the cafeteria with everyone. Noise, food allergy dangers, tic dangers. But also it saddens her deeply to have to eat in the office by herself. She’s allowed (required?) to ask a classmate to join her, but according to Jesse, mostly they say no (one actually said to her, “no thanks, I want to eat with my friends”). So that’s kind of humiliating. There are a couple peeps who will eat with her; but even there, she says that once in a while they forget and head off to the cafeteria. So on days like those, if an adult isn’t available to join her, Jesse sits in a room by herself and eats.
I try to imagine what that feels like when you’re eleven.
But I don’t want to impose my feelings on her, and I don’t want to talk about lunch too much and make too big a deal of it. As we turn onto our own street, a thought percolates up out of nowhere. “Jesse, would you like it if I go back to work?”
She thinks about it a second, her eyebrows raised. “Yeah, that would be great.” She sounds awfully chirpy about it.
That makes me feel surprisingly chirpy too. “I could start looking for something right now then. Maybe it would be good if I work. But then you and Nick would have to go to after-school care, because I wouldn’t be able to pick you up. And you’d have to help more around the house.”
“Well… I think you should get a job, but maybe not for a couple years. Like when I’m in high school and Nick’s in middle school. Or when Nick is in high school too.”
We’ve pulled into our driveway. Jesse drags herself out of the car and is starting to grin. “Actually, it would be even better if you wait until we’re in college.”
I see where this is headed.