Michelle returned home with Mrs. Pfister. Her dad and Stephanie stayed with the twins. After eating, the girl closed her eyes on the couch. Mrs. Pfister cleaned the mess.
Michelle couldn’t believe all that had happened. Her dad must have said “thank you” at least a hundred times. She couldn’t imagine how much her Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky would say it. And, her dad’s show included a weekly segment on people who saved lives. Between him and Aunt Becky, the question wasn’t whether she’d be interviewed. The question was, who of the two would be more emotional.
Michelle’s dad and sister entered the home with Nicky and Alex. Michelle opened her eyes. Had they really wearied her that much? She must have been asleep almost twenty minutes.
“Everyone’s okay,” Danny announced excitedly. Mrs. Pfister left after a round of “thank you”s. Danny sat. He put an arm around Michelle. “You look exhausted.”
“You said it,” came her fatigued reply. “They took all my energy. I could have watched them a lot better, though. They wouldn’t have had to go to the hospital.”
“Well, you did a great job. We stopped at the store and got you something. I’m going to bake a great big double layer chocolate cake all for you.”
She perked up at the thought of it. “Yum yum. Cake drives me nuts. Even more nuts than Nicky and Alex drove me today.”
He hugged her. “Thank you again, honey. I’m really glad you obeyed my rules. But, I have to admit I goofed. I get so scared for you kids. Then, I just get overprotective. I talked about all codes and things. But, I didn’t leave room for times like this. You have to tell someone you’re alone sometimes. I want you to call someone right away next time. I’ll make a list of sitters you can tell.”
Michelle considered her dad’s great love and patience. She thanked him. “From what I went through, I know you're the best parent on this planet.”
Stephanie entered from the kitchen. She said Mrs. Wilkins had left a message. “She’d tried before, but the line was busy. I just called and gave her the scoop. She wants Michelle to call her right away next time she’s here alone. Even if it’s without the twins.”
Danny nodded. “Great. Mrs. Pfister said the same thing. Between your friends’ parents and Stephanie’s friends, you have lots of people you can call. I’ll just have to expect you’ll call someone we both trust.” He walked into the kitchen to make the cake.
Michelle followed him. She stood in front of him. She glanced at the floor for a moment. “Dad, I have to confess something. At first, I was glad I couldn’t call. I wanted to do things myself. I figured there was no reason to worry. I’m hope you’re not mad about that.”
Danny knelt and put his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, that’s the same mistake I made. I figured that not telling anyone except in an emergency would solve all the problems. Now we both know better, don’t we?”
She nodded. Her dad was usually quite humble like that. That made it easier to admit her mistakes. She realized the importance of making sure everyone was safe, including herself. “It got so wild, I couldn’t stay on the phone to get someone. I’m gonna call right away. I never want to go through this kind of day again.”
Michelle walked back into the living room. Jesse and Becky were just arriving. The twins ran to them.
Becky spoke joyfully. “Good. At least you’re home, too, Stephanie.”
“Dad made it home just when I did,” Stephanie told her. “He’s in the kitchen.” Danny walked into the living room at that moment.
“All ready to go to the big carnival tomorrow, boys?” Becky asked them.
Nicky and Alex gazed sorrowfully at their parents. “We can’t go. Michelle grounded us,” explained Nicky remorsefully.
Alex shook his head. He stared at his shoes. “We didn't listen good at all.”
Michelle added a couple things. “They can't watch TV till Monday. Plus, they can't ride their tricycles or watch videos till next weekend.”
Becky and Jesse were stunned. They knew how excited their children had been for the carnival. Michelle wanted so badly to let them go, too.
Becky stammered. “Well...Danny, were they really that bad?”
“Oh, they were much better at the end,” Danny said. Both parents looked relieved. The looks soon disappeared. “I think they learned their lesson. Michelle says they obeyed perfectly when she called 9-1-1 and had to induce vomiting in them.”
“When what?!” Becky tearfully hugged her children. She was gravely concerned. “Are they all right? How, what...”
Jesse was shocked. “Danny, th-they were fine this morning. What has been happening?”
“I think you'd better ask Michelle that. She's the one who knows the whole story.” He smiled proudly at her. “She's a real hero.”
Michelle was getting embarrassed by the incredible praise. “I didn’t do all that great a job.” “Oh, Dad, puh-leeease,” came the weary comment. She related all that happened. Becky and Jesse sat on either side of Michelle. They hugged her profusely, and thanked her lavishly. Michelle could tell her Aunt Becky’s eyes were watery.
“The doctors said they were okay,” Danny added. “I found a new place for the key to that cleaning cabinet. They'd broken into it.”
Michelle refused to believe she'd earned the plaudits she was getting. “I blew it. I should have been watching them more closely. I could have explained things better, too. You know that speech I gave about rules? I should have said that right when they came home.” Her grin returned. “But, if you were going to bake me a cake like Dad, I'd accept anyway.”
Her dad turned to her. “You really did a great job. I mean it.”
Michelle walked up to her Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky’s room. The couple had just put the twins to bed. She licked her lips clean of cake.
Michelle found the couple relaxing on a sofa. “Well, if it isn’t ‘Mommy Michelle,’” kidded Becky. Michelle grinned slightly. She sat between them. “You really gained their respect. The boys can’t wait till you’re old enough to actually babysit by yourself.”
Michelle was glad Nicky and Alex weren’t upset with her. “I guess D.J. was right. They could tell I did it in love.” She offered to return some privileges. “I mean, I don’t know if...”
Jesse halted her quickly. “Hey,” he whispered, “were any of those punishments for getting into that cabinet? One they knew not to get into? Or for taking something from there?”
“Well...I guess I didn’t think about that.” Nor did she want to. She didn’t want to consider even watching them for a while. “I guess I’ll know more in a few years. Maybe I’ll feel like watching them alone again when I’m about 75.” The couple laughed.
“They listened perfectly when we got home,” commented Becky. “You must have gotten through to them. Still, we are going to have some very long talks with them tomorrow. We need to make sure they understand.”
“You know what,” Jesse began. He looked at Becky and Michelle. “Getting into that stuff was dangerous enough. Even without their other misdeeds, we might be saying ‘no’ to part of the carnival.”
Michelle sighed. They tried to reassure her. But, she couldn’t ignore her failures. “See what I mean? I had no clue how to be a mom. I could have copied Mom if I'd known her. I would have done a much better job than I did. I wouldn't have made those mistakes. I’m sure I didn’t get half the stuff right, even talking to everyone. And, I’m just as much to blame for their getting into that cabinet in the first place!”
Jesse could tell she was upset. He said he understood why she was so hard on herself. “It could have been tragic. But, before you think you were a complete failure, I want to tell you about someone. Someone who was supposed to be watching D.J. when she was a baby.”
He glanced up, then continued. “You see, D.J. almost swallowed a toy once. She could have choked to death. This person just turned her back for a minute. Then, she saw the tail end of your Grandma Tanner holding D.J. and rescuing her. Your dad must have thanked his mom 500 times that day.”
Michelle flashed her pretty smile. “I think Dad broke that record today.”
Becky gave her another hug. She spoke tearily. “And, we'll probably break it again. Thank you so much.”
Jesse continued. “That person felt and said the same things as you. She was beside herself with doubt. She didn’t think she could care for a child. But that someone kept going, despite her failures. Because you see, munchkin, that someone was your mother.”
Michelle couldn’t believe it. She’d thought her mother could never make mistakes like that.
He noticed her stunned face. “Yes, she made mistakes. I know it’s hard to believe. You never met her. So, you think she was perfect.
“You made some too. That and the pressure you felt shows you’re not capable of being more than a helper yet. But you still did better than any nine-year-old could ever be asked to do.”
Michelle sighed. “I guess I did better than I thought,” she admitted sadly. “But, it's still nothing like having known Mom.”
Jesse put an arm around Michelle. “No, it isn't. But, you know what,” he began. A small tear gleaned in his eye. “I know we’ll meet again in Heaven. But, I still miss her terribly sometimes. Having you girls to help raise is the best thing that could have happened to me. Because each of you reminds me so much of Pam. You may find it hard to believe sometimes. But, you're just like your mother. And you can be very proud of that.”
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