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Bre Marie Strobel

We sit in the parking lot on campus sipping our coffee, thankful that we have the same class and that it starts at 9:10. We spent the night at our friend Sean and Christina’s house, babysitting their kids while they were out of town. At 4 am, I woke up to Rylie crying in the living room because her blanket fell off her bed. I took her back to her room, where she curled up in a princess blanket on the floor, and I left her there. Then, at 6 am came a little hand rubbing across the door. I opened it to find Mitchell, shocked to see me instead of his mom, dark bedhead hair adding to the effect. We got up, got dressed and fed the kids breakfast before commuting 20 minutes away to drop them off at daycare. Their daycare was conveniently 10 minutes from the Salvation Army where Sean and Christina were pastors, but half an hour away from University of Northwestern, the school we attended, so we joined the morning traffic before detouring on residential streets.

We made it to campus with 10 minutes to spare, waiting in the car with our coffee. I think of the due date that passed just two months ago without a baby. I want to tell Garth how life doesn’t feel right, how I hate my still empty womb, how I’d trade finishing school for the baby we lost last summer.

Instead, I stare out the windshield at the sloped pathway ahead of us, watching students emerge from the tunnel under the road on a path connecting their dorms to the campus, their breath like wisps puffing up before them. I think of the two worlds we inhabit: the one where we are married and living our adult lives, and the one where we are college students still insulated—for a few more months—from typical adult responsibilities.

“Having kids in school would be insane,” I say, taking another sip of coffee.

“Totally crazy,” he says. “We’d be so tired. I’m so tired.”

The empty car seats behind us take up their space silently. I glance at them one more time, how there was somehow just enough space for both of them in our small hatchback, and get out of the car, hoisting my backpack over my shoulder. We walk to class, somehow still a minute late.


That afternoon, we pick the kids up from daycare and take them home. Mitchell kicks his shoes off in the backseat despite my reminding him to leave them on. We slowly make our way through rush hour traffic on I-694. He cries because his feet are cold.

In the garage, Garth and I remove the kids from their car seats, then the car seats from our car. He kisses me goodbye for work, and I hoist three backpacks — the kids’ and mine — into the house. The kids settle straight in, playing, and I start dinner with the instructions Christina left for me. While the food is in the oven, I manage homework between mediating sibling disputes and making sure I don’t burn the food. Dinner is ready and the kids fed when their parents arrive home, and I offer Sean and Christina the chicken quesadilla wraps I had set aside for them. Then, I stay out of the way and do homework on the couch while they spend some time together as a family.

I say goodnight to the kids and wait on the couch while Christina puts them each to bed. Sean stays in his bedroom to unpack and work on Sunday’s sermon. My iPhone is new, my first smartphone, and there’s not much to do on it, but I check my email and then find something to read online.

Christina apologizes when she returns, dumping laundry out of a basket and kneeling on the floor.

“I’m afraid you’re nursing an addiction,” she says, folding a pair of small sweatpants.

“No,” I say.

“Let me finish,” she looks up at me, an almost comical picture of domesticity in her puffy robe and glasses, hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, “Now is just the beginning. Soon you’ll get deeper and deeper and won’t be able to get out. You didn’t use your phone all the time until you got that iPhone.”

“I’m only on it when you’re busy with something,” I say, putting away my phone in my backpack with my laptop and folders, “It’s gotten harder for me lately. Especially around friends with kids.”

She apologizes, says she didn’t realize.

“I’ll find someone else to babysit,” she says.

Garth opens the front door, he stands in the entryway with his shoes on, fresh from a shift at Chipotle. He heard her, and we both insist that watching the kids is fine. Good for us, even.

When we get in the car I confess to Garth that we still have a medical bill to pay. It’s a small bill, months overdue, a check I haven’t been able to write.

“That thing keeps coming back to haunt us,” he says, shifting the car into reverse. I don’t find humor in his choice of words, and I tell him. He thinks they’re perfectly fitting. “You’re kind of stupid,” I say, calling silence into the tension.

When we get home, I stand outside looking into the sky while Garth pulls the car into the garage of our apartment complex. The sky is clear, revealing a shock of stars. We walk the wet earth, softened from the stripped snow. Soon the ground will be fertile again.

I understand now why people think of the dead when they look at the stars. These bursts of light, no longer really there, and yet we search them like a memory.

Bre Marie Strobel is a full-time homeschool mom and writer, married to her high school sweetheart. She has been published in Truly Co Magazine and The Way Back to Ourselves literary journal. You can find her on Instagram @brestrobel, and on Substack writing her publication titled Being Beloved.

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