It's only 7 hours after the phone call that I realize what I should have said.
At 6:45AM, the phone rang. It was Mom, calling from Italy. She wanted to make sure we got in all right, and then proceeded to go over the very same list that she had detailed for me -- twice -- before she left for Europe. In fact, it's the very same list that she wrote down for me to find when I arrived.
None of that stopped her from going over it all, once more, with me, at 6:45AM, which to my Phoenix-zoned body was really 3:45AM.
By the time I was off the phone with Mom -- many assurances like "Yes, I know where it is," and "OK, I'll put the answering machine back on for you," -- everyone else was awake, too. I tried to persuade them to get a little more sleep, but it was no good. Instead of the cloudy day we had been expecting, we awoke to bright sunlight and blue skies.
Much later, Mom called again, just as I was starting to pull things together for dinner (chicken, corn on the cob, sliced cucumbers). She just wanted to check in briefly to make sure that all was going well. Once again I assured her that we are all fine. I lived in this house for many years, and have had extensive stays here nearly every year since. Nothing much changes, and if my first instinct for locating something fails, I usually have two or three alternates, and I've yet to come up stymied for anything. I reminded Mom of these facts but they didn't satisfy her much, I could tell.
Just now I made myself a cup of tea in the microwave. The first cup I nuked for 2.5 minutes, and the teabag exploded, making a huge mess. I laughed that I had forgotten that Mom's microwave is so much more powerful than mine, which needs 2.5 minutes to make the water hot enough for tea. I cleaned up the mess and tried again with just the water, which I put in for 2 minutes. About a third of it boiled out, and when I put the teabag in, it did that super-heated boiling thing which is both fascinating and scary: it looked just like plain hot water until the teabag broke the surface, and then it sprang to furious life, roiling like any witch's cauldron should.
I have to laugh about this, because Mom has told me how to make tea at least 50 times, and often I'll reply something like, Mom, I used to make tea for you when I still lived here! I've been making tea for more than 30 years now! And she'll say something like, I know, I know, but I didn't want you to forget... whatever quirk it was I was supposed to remember... which clearly, today, I forgot.
And in that very minor kitchen disaster, the thought came into my head, what I should have said to Mom: We're OK Mom, we're somehow managing without you, and we'll be able to hold down the fort till you get home. And most important: I miss you.
Because of course, it's true.