Wendy was used to feeling anxious when she woke up. Is she late? What time is it? Where does she need to go? She rolled over in small increments to see that her alarm clock read 8:24 a.m. OK, she thought, I have more than half an hour to get to school. Shower, dress, and eat breakfast. Ten minutes each. She had been teaching long enough that she didn’t need to plan lessons.

She coaxed herself out of bed, stood up, and looked out her window. The childcare center parking lot was filled with rushed parents dropping off their dawdling, half-asleep toddlers. She looked left and saw a school bus speeding north toward Laurentian Public on Westmount. Her anxiety returned when she wondered if her students would arrive at school before her. Wendy quickly and efficiently began the motions of her morning routine, as she had done for years. Once dressed and clean, she stepped out of her room and into a hallway full of doors with numbers and small whiteboards.

Where is he? Had she lost him? It seemed she had! Wendy couldn’t do her job without him.

“Wendy! Good morning my love! How are you this morning?” said a smiley young woman wearing a light blue nurse’s uniform. Wendy felt a pit in her stomach as she realized she must have forgotten an appointment with this woman.

“Oh . . . yes, I’m fine.” Wendy’s voice rushed through several stages of waking up as she tried to appear alert and determined. “I’m awfully sorry, I must have forgotten you were coming. I wasn’t expecting you . . . I . . . now, where is it we should go?”

“Oh!” The nurse’s voice was wide awake. “No problem at all my dear. Don’t worry about a thing. Why don’t you come with me and we can get you some breakfast?” The nurse left her cart of small bottles, trays, and towels behind. She linked arms with Wendy and led her briskly down the hallway. Wendy tried to walk quickly without showing her struggle. We are in a rush, she thought. We are late for something. It’s good the nurse is here: she seems to know what to do.

Wendy felt anxious as she realized she was missing someone. Where is he? She needed to find him or something would go wrong.

“Now, I am looking for my friend. I’m not sure where he is, but I do think he is supposed to be here. I’m worried I’ve lost him.”

“Oh! Darling!” the nurse smiled and looked at Wendy as if she were a stray at the Humane Society. “Ernie is already waiting for you in the common room! I’m sure he’s keeping your spot warm.”

Wendy didn’t recognize the name, but felt consoled. “Oh good, thank you. Well, I am glad I’ve got your help. You really seem to know how things work around here.” Wendy began wondering who this “Ernie” was and what she might be meeting him for. She hoped he wasn’t the parent of a student. She could never remember parents’ names. Sometimes she didn’t even know who their child was.

She reviewed her stock phrases.

Your child has so much potential.

If she continues to work on applying herself, there is no telling how far she could go.

He is such a positive presence in the classroom when he is focused and behaved.

Wendy felt her face flush and her fingers tingle as she became nervous she would make a fool of herself in front of this parent.

The nurse turned a corner and led Wendy into a large open area with a dining room, lounge, and kitchen. The ceiling, walls, and floor were sorted top to bottom by increasingly dark hues of brown. The lounge was on the right, littered with couches and chairs pointed towards a large flatscreen TV. Several people sat quietly, watching the TV, where two men played dramatic piano and cello music in the middle of some sort of winter wonderland.

“Here she is, Ernie! I told you we’d find her!”

Wendy followed the nurse as she sat her on a love seat beside a thin man wearing a faded Toronto Blue Jays cap.

Ernie was smiling. “Oh, hello!” He nodded, making brief eye contact with Wendy in the middle of the nod.

Wendy returned his smile and said nothing. She felt herself sink into the love seat as the man reached over and held her hand loosely. Wendy wondered what the two of them were waiting for. She felt at home, and her body relaxed as she maintained a closed mouth smile. Several minutes later the nurse returned.

“Oh! Look at the two of you!” said the nurse from the back of her throat. “Aren’t you adorable? I am sorry, but I’m going to have to separate you for just a little while. Wendy, Ernie needs to do his morning exercises, but he’ll be back after your breakfast.”

“That’s fine dear, thank you.” Wendy was hungry, and silently wondered when she would have her breakfast.

The nurse helped Ernie stand and prop himself up behind his walker. She leaned in beside Wendy and whispered in her ear. “You might want to hold off on the hand-holding for today my dear. Don’t forget that your husband is coming to visit this afternoon!” She gave Wendy a wet kiss on the cheek.

Wendy felt her face flush and fingers tingle as she filled with anxiety. She completely forgot that she had a visitor this afternoon. How foolish! She would have to prepare something to eat. She frantically began searching her memory for her visitor’s preferred food and drink, but nothing came to mind. As she tried to formulate a plan to prepare for her afternoon visit, Wendy filled with the unmistakable feeling that she was missing someone important. Where is he?