She walked through the door last night at 7:30, a young woman with an expression of familiarity, as if she had partaken of the fruit from the tree of knowledge and tasted the sweet nectar of freedom.  I could see it on her face — an acknowledgement that the girl who walked out that door six weeks ago had changed ever so slightly.  It was as she had passed the ghost of her former self as she came through the door.  The memory of that girl still remained in our house, in her bedroom shrine, a welcomed strangeness as she ventured in.

Don’t be too shocked when we see what we have done to your room.” I quipped as Alyssa trudged up the stairs to her bedroom.  She chuckled.

Her room does look different, mainly because it’s CLEAN.

Mom stood at the front door for a full half hour, unmoving with cell phone in her hand, anticipating our daughter’s arrival as she watched for the car to pull up.  Chester, our orange cat, sat on the couch looking out the door over Miriam’s shoulder.  Our faithful Shetland sheepdog stood by her side, not knowing why she was there but certain it was important for him to participate.  I swear they both jumped in simultaneous joy as the car pulled into our drive way, Miriam literally squealed with joy, Nick barked while standing on his back legs to look through the screen door.

I stayed at my perch like the dad I am, calm and watching my text with hidden anticipation.  Alyssa had texted Miriam, so I knew she when she was close.  My instructions were to wait for the text, then place the pizza order.

Yep.  They don’t have REAL pizza in Indiana like we have here in Chicagoland.  Lou Malnati butter garlic crust deep dish, The Lou with spinach, mushrooms, Italian sausage, sliced roma tomatoes, four kinds of cheese.  Alyssa freshened up, then we zipped out for pizza.

It’s funny the difference between my wife and I.  Miriam could not hide her excitement, talked a mile a minute, smothered our daughter with attention.  I gave my daughter a big hug, followed her upstairs to her room to see her reaction, the glow of having my daughter back burning on my face.  But like always, I gave my daughter her space and went back downstairs to wait, let her relax and settle in, waited for her to come to me — because she always does.  Alyssa always seeks me out, likes to get that time where she gets my total uninterrupted attention, when it’s just me and her.  Someone caught me at church talking to Alyssa after having one of those times with her, our breakfast dates, and they tried to get a picture of the satisfied smile on my face.

Yes, I really missed my daughter.  I knew I did miss her, just did not realize how much until she walked through that door last night.

And we got our time this morning.  I took her over to our middle school, where she was asked to reunite with the girls from the flute choir she lead while she was in high school.  The band director asked her to come this morning, paid her to teach three ‘master sessions’.  I picked her up afterwards, didn’t rush back to work, spent some time with her at Starbucks instead.

Feels nice.  Sunday afternoon is when she goes back.  I will lose a bit of that happiness when she goes back.