"Are you sitting down?"
The question travels more than 2,500 miles to get to me.
It pings from my literary agent's cell phone in Southern California across the desert states, through the vastness of the Texas prairies and the Louisiana bayous until it lands, like a promise, in my ear near Tampa, Florida.
"Yes, I am!!!! Why? Do I need to be?"
Goosebumps pop out on my arms, the arms in which my preschooler is currently wriggling around. He didn't nap. He was supposed to have napped. Of all days, this was the day I needed him to just lie down in his room and sleep for once in his four-year-old life.
It's a crazy Thursday morning in an even crazier Halloween week. I'd joined my kids at school for Trunk or Treat two days ago, we'd trick-or-treated half the night, I'd spoken at a women's group yesterday, I'd just received a huge project from work this morning, and our school's fall festival, of which I am a chair, is tomorrow night. I'd spent an hour earlier today filling up my grocery cart with hot dogs, popsicles, condiments, and buns while attempting to keep Brennan from climbing the cereal shelves.
To say I am frazzled is to say the Carolina reaper pepper is spicy: understatement of the year.
And now, I'm seated at my desk, breathless with anticipation while Brennan whacks me with a tiny packet of Whoppers filched from the Halloween stash. "Mommy! I can't open it!"
"Shhh! I'm talking to my agent!" And this is the phone call I've been waiting for my whole life!
Today, I'd find out if Penguin Random House would publish my two young adult novels, the first of which I'd been working on for years. Years. Brennan, of course, does not care. He wants the chocolate, and I'm the one who can assist.
I'm Mommy, opener of candy, kisser of boo-boos, massager of backs, fixer of lunches, scolder of naughtiness, and driver of children. Laundress extraordinaire…maybe on a good day.
But definitely not some random author whose hopes and dreams rest in the next words this woman on the other line is going to say. He doesn't care that my heart is jack-hammering in the agony of the seconds before she replies.
I take the chocolate from him, my ear pressed into my cell phone. "I'm listening, Kari! What did they say??" I try to tear the wrapper. It doesn't budge.
She laughs on the other end of the line. "Are you ready for it?"
"Yes!" I screech, biting the end of the packet. The stupid thing won't open.
"Well…It's a two-book deal, Kell. They've met our counter offer."
"Yes. I'm serious!" She laughs. "You're going to be published with Penguin Random House!"
My hair stands on end as my throat tightens. "Really?"
"Yes!" she cries. "Yes, it's true!"
A laugh mingled with a half-sob works its way out of my mouth, as tears spring to my eyes "I CANNOT BELIEVE IT!"
And then I'm laughing and crying at the same time. Years of pent-up emotion spills to the surface and down my cheeks. Kari says things over the line, but I'm not getting most of it, so she promises to send an email with the details and give me a half hour to compose myself before she officially accepts.
I hit end on my phone, and wilt onto the floor, bringing Brennan with me, crying into his golden hair with wild abandon. It's the closest to hysteria I think I've ever been. My blood feels like it's going to burst right out of my skin. I've finally—FINALLY—caught up to the dream I've been running down, and that sucker was fast.
But Brennan still wants his chocolate.
"Mommy! Open it, Mommy!" He wiggles out of my arms, and takes the chocolate from my clenched fists. He dangles it in front of my face.
The mother in me wants to get after him about his demands. Tell him to use his polite words. Put him back in his room and ask that he take his required rest time, even if he isn't going to sleep. Attend to his needs and his desires. You know, like I typically do.
But for a moment, I allow the mother in me to take a backseat to the little girl in me curled up with The Bridge to Terebithia in her butterfly bedroom, wondering how those magic words could make her feel so much inside. Wondering if someday, she could possibly make another person feel that way, too.
I throw my head back and laugh long and loud and hard into my office, filling up the room with my joy.
"Mommy! I don't like it when you laugh like that!" Brennan puts both hands over his ears and stares me down like I've lost my mind.
I mostly have.
"But I did it, Brennan! I did it!" I pull him back to me in a bear hug. I give into my joy, and let it take me away. I ignore his pleading and whining, and allow myself to push away the thought that says I should get a grip, attend to his needs, and get on with my day.
"No you didn't open it!" He holds up the candy. "It's right here!"
Laughing, I take it from him and wrench it open with one mighty tug. I coax the three little chocolates out and into his grubby, outstretched hand. "That's not what I meant, bud." I wipe the tears from my face as he pops all three candies into his mouth and chews.
Chocolate runs down his chin and I wipe it away, planting a kiss on this green-eyed boy who pushes me past my breaking point some days. I can't explain the thrill of what I've just experienced to him—the absolute bliss. He wouldn't understand the bitter tears I've shed before this day. The thousands of hours I've spent honing my craft. The endless fighting through the roughest days and forlorn nights to get to this exact moment on this exact day.
He would not get it, because he doesn't see me as someone with dreams. I’m just Mom.
But I'm well-acquainted with the dreamer in me. The little girl who stayed inside to read when the other kids played in the yard, joined the journalism staff in high school, and studied creative writing in college. And now, looking back on her, this girl who grew to be a woman with a fierce longing in her chest, I take her hand across the expanse of time and whisper: "You did it. Believe it or not, girl, you did it."
And then, because I am a mom, an unshakeable, undeniable fact, I take my littlest boy in my arms again and squeeze him tight, knowing that because of the 2,500-mile conversation I had today, I may one day be able to understand him a bit more if he's ever nipping at the heels of a monumental dream, and wondering how fast he can run.