For me, it was just another day. A wonderful, exciting, beautiful new day.
Mav woke up at 5:45. As he slathered his cheeks in preparation for a shave, humming a tune that heated my cheeks, I made my way down to the kitchen smiling.
Mabel had stayed with a friend the night before, but she would be home for breakfast that mid summer morning and I was excited to make my little announcement. I hoped the kids would respond as well as Mav.
I started the percolator and was pulling out my frying pan when Marcus’ feet slapped hastily down the polished oak steps.
“Ma, what happened? What’s going on?”
His voice was too high and when I turned, his face was as white as porcelain. We’d just celebrated his fourteenth birthday a few days before, but his wide eyes and trembling lips made him look much younger.
“What’s wrong, dear?”
The sun was rising behind him, and it startled me to see sunshine in my kitchen so early in the day.
He grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the side door. As he flung it open, we both froze staring out at a sight I still cannot explain.
Maverick’s parents had bought us the property as a wedding present. It was a slice of a pie shaped meadow in the center of a beautiful ancient forest with trees topping out 40′ above the grass. We’d built our home alongside 13 other young couples, unknowingly creating what we would later call ‘Pinedale Oasis’. A sweet little neighbourhood that grew to the north and west, out of the trees and toward the city.
But ours had remained the last house, butting up to the woods to the south and east. Our kitchen door and window were always shaded from the sun by a thick copse of pine trees less than ten feet away.
Staring out at a hill filled with homes behind white fences and punctuated with tall oak trees, my mind couldn’t quite make sense of the landscape.
“What happened to the trees?”
I couldn’t tear my eyes away. The backs of twenty houses stood in my line of vision, all with tiered wooden porches supporting big tables with umbrellas and massive shiny metal boxes that must be for cooking because they all had knobs that looked like the ones on the front of my new six burner stovetop.
A couple of them had pools with Caribbean blue water sparkling in the rising sun. I watched a woman doing laps in one of them until she spotted me. She climbed out of the water in a bright pink bikini and stared at me with the same expression that I must’ve been wearing.
Mav’s voice broke through the haze. “What in heaven-”
“Dad, where did they- What is- How?”
Marcus’ hysterics brought me back to myself. I turned and told him to go put on clothes as I dashed up the steps to dress myself.
“We’ll just have to go ask them.”
The early morning heat loomed over us as old neighbors hugged each other and tried, noisily to make sense of this. The crowd from the new neighborhood was larger, but quiet. Most of them held shiny and strange flat boxes, some put them to their cheek and spoke into them while others jabbed or slid over them with fingers or thumbs. I even saw some of them holding them up at us like cameras, they even had what looked like a flat lense on the back.
Maverick kept his hand on me protectively all morning. It was comforting, even as it added a bit to the fear.
The blonde woman who had been swimming had walked over first. She had what looked like a rhinestone in the crease of her nose and several tattoos down each arm. It was unsettling until I realized many of the others did as well.
“Where did you come from?”
It was the question of the day. One I couldn’t answer.
Our phones hadn’t worked. But the electricity did. Dan Bradbury had turned on his television to static, but the radios all revealed we were no longer in 1967.
When the police arrived, they brought medics and firemen with them, which I thought was strange until Marcus whispered in my ear. “Maybe they think we’re aliens?”
When I could finally speak to tell an officer my name, his wizened eyes were filled with fear and pity and something else.
Mav wrapped both arms around me as we listened. Marcus sat on the other side of the hospital room with his head in his hands. My tears wouldn’t stop, and neither could my mind.
Fifty years prior to that day, our beautiful, quiet neighborhood had vanished. Without a trace.
The site was studied for decades. Scientists from all over the planet ran tests and studies. They searched for us.
My daughter searched for us. For decades.
She was living in southern California with her second husband. Twin girls from the first had both gone to Stanford and were now pursuing doctorates in different fields in different parts of the country. She also had a son with the second who has Down Syndrome and is named after his grandfather, but with an easier nickname for him so say.
Her voice sounds just like mine.
She’s about to celebrate her sixtieth birthday. But, as she told us she and Pete would come up with Rick on Saturday, I felt my sweet little girl bursting through the speaker. She wanted her mommy.
“Oh, Mabel. I’m so sorry.”
The tears caught, and her restrained demeanor broke into hiccuping sobs and the muffled questions of a young man who didn’t want to see his mother cry.
Marcus raised his head, his eyes reflecting his sister’s pain.
He stood and came closer. “Maby, it’s Marcus.” He cleared his throat and sat on the edge of the mattress. “I’m glad you’re ok.”
A tremor in his voice that vibrated through the fabric of time made her stop crying.
“You’ll be ok too, Marcus. I promise.”
They released me from the hospital late that night. We left stunned by the medical advancements of the past fifty years.
Three of us were brought in for observation. Mr Winstead had a heart attack when they told us it was 2017. Franny Gilson fainted and needed two stitches. And me.
Mabel is a gorgeous woman who doesn’t seem old enough to have grown children, except for the tiny wrinkles that flank her eyes and the grooves that frame her mouth. Rick is kind and sweet, his speech is nearly perfect and he loves to talk. He works at a store called Walmart and recently moved into a full time position which he loves.
His father could not stop staring at me. My daughter and I look very similar. Twenty years apart, instead of 30, and in the wrong direction. I can’t even imagine what it was like to meet us.
I couldn’t find a way to tell her about the baby. We talked for hours about everything. Just not that.
Mav had spent the four days before her visit sorting legal and financial stuff. He was exhausted, but was positively fascinated by Rick. He and Pete worked to explain modern sports, satellite television and something called Fantasy Football.
Marcus was lost to it all. Swiping his finger over the glass of his sister’s Smart Phone, he seemed to be absorbing all of this new technology much faster than me. As they sat, hunched over the device, I felt my heart break for all the years she lived without us.
And then he said it.
“Our brother will grow up with all of this. He’ll never know life without it.”
My doctor in 1967 called it a change of life baby. But fifty years later, it wasn’t unusual to have a baby at 40.
That night in the hospital, we got to see his little face, his perfect little body of 10 weeks, his amazingly tiny heart thrumming along as if nothing had ever happened. As if he hadn’t just vanished and reappeared 5 decades later.
The rain started just as she looked up at me.
He chased her outside, shouting for her to wait. It was like watching a film. The sound distorted by the rain as she cried out and fell to her knees. The way he looked back at me.
He picked her up. Held her to his chest.
There was no age between them as I watched her collapse against him. They just stood there, hanging onto each other.
And then, she laughed.
The sky above them brightened despite the downpour.
It was magic.
I won’t deny it’s been hard. On all of us.
Mav had to train for a new job. Marcus had to adjust to modern schooling which took tutors and counseling. We were paid for interviews, but not a lot, and for the next year, it seemed everyone wanted a piece of us. Sometimes, it still does today.
But when it is hard, I look at that photograph.
A picture I took, on a weird device that I didn’t know how to use, of my children.
Dancing in the rain.
And it’s magic, still.