Sometimes on my nightly drives, I spot, in distant yards, sheets on a line. Some of them haphazardly strewn across, some meticulously strung in their own humble, matronly art form.

I see them there, moving in the wind, and I wonder the story that lies beneath.

Has a mom been up through the night, blood pressure racing, eyes burning, with a child who won’t stop being sick? A mother who is comforting, consoling, cleaning, mopping, patting, shushing, and then back again, back again. A mother who stares bleakly out the window hoping for morning and at the same time shuddering at the thought of a busy day chasing toddlers and maybe holding babies and also maybe more than all of that . . . all with no sleep. Sick calls again, and she is off. Her body moves faster than her mind, and she is pulled into the direction of need before she even has time to think. She wouldn’t trade it. Never, ever. This is where she’s meant to be, what she’s been made for. But she is tired, so tired. Ahead, ahead . . . one foot in front of the other. Things to do, always more things to do.

No rest for the mother whose sheets are on the line.

Or maybe, do the sheets move in the wind of this day simply because it’s Tuesday, and on Tuesdays we wash sheets. On Tuesdays we wash sheets, because if we don’t wash sheets on Tuesdays, we simply won’t wash the sheets. Why, because Mondays are for meetings, and Wednesdays are for marketing and Thursdays are for on-site training and Fridays are for staff evaluations, and Saturdays are for everything else. The mother who rushes home, barefoot driving, business shoes abandoned in the backseat, fast, fast, a little too fast. Must go fast, the only desperate goal that bedtime kiss and a few minutes more of that favorite bedtime story. Cherished, precious, sweet, sweet moments. A deep breath. And so on Tuesdays, we wash sheets.

No rest for the mother whose sheets are on the line.

Here, at this home, sometimes it is all of this, but often, it feels . . . our sheets are on the line because there is something not quite right here. These sheets signal a void. An empty bed. A space not filled. Maybe only a night, maybe two, maybe more . . . but an empty bed means there is time to scrub those sheets. To dust the shelves and re-organize the drawers. To refold t-shirts all too hastily thrown back into the closet. To tenderly touch tiny mementos and special souvenirs collected years over. This week while my daughter is at camp, it means rearranging the little, stuffed, very-loved things just so, and wondering about the story the Barbies are stuck in . . . a dramatic moment, frozen in time. Picking up the necklaces and bracelets, each with their own memories, some tenderly and painstakingly handmade from a best friend forever, some handed down, way down, with deep and sacred love from a grandparent who is no longer.

The room, it sits quiet. So quiet, and now so clean. Everything in limbo. Everything’s in limbo when one bed is empty. This mom thinking, hoping, praying, loving the one who isn’t here, who isn’t home. The tasks in this room, a silent token of a mother’s love that never ends . . . that never changes . . . that seems to only grow with the distance that now separates us.

No rest for the mother whose sheets are on the line.

The stories these sheets tell. This week, this is ours.
Because we are waiting. And we are ready.
The sheets are on the line.

Come home soon, baby. It’s almost time.

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Rachel Gossen

I am a mom of 4. 3 teenaged sons (send help and also food) and one 8 yr. old blessing of a daughter. My husband and I have lost ourselves in the raising of them in the past 16 years...but we're perfectly fine with that. It won't last forever....we're learning this more quickly than we could have ever guessed. I'm not really a writer, just a mom who loves her kids, and loves words on the side. Find me on Facebook!