But I've yet to get used to the feeling of being home myself long after dinner; after the skies are dark and my children are sleeping. The first floor lights are sometimes down and dinner is sitting under a layer of foil in the kitchen. Sometimes my daughter is awake (never my son these days), but sometimes she's not. Sometimes the whole house is quiet and I feel like I've missed a key ball game and let all my team mates down. I want another chance.
"Be glad you're working," a voice says to me.
I know that voice is right. There are lots of reasons to be glad for those late hours these days. In fact, I don't think I've ever been so glad to work in my life. It's like having a crop to harvest - the work is hard, but it means a winter without hunger.
"Get some rest," another voice says to me, but this is harder advice to follow.
Inevitably, when I get home this late, I'm wired. It may take an hour to find the book or the song or the cup of tea that will throttle down my mind to a normal level. I'm not ON, but I am on; on like my kids are sometimes on at the end of a busy day or after a sugary snack.
"Full of beans," is the expression my mother would use, "Just full of beans."
I'll put the tea on in a minute or so. I'll tune into Evening Music on WNYC. I'll pick up The Thin Man and read for a bit. I'm sure I'll calm down and sleep. My process is not much different I suppose than watching our cat go through her rituals before curling up on the couch and snoozing - except that she doesn't work and sleeps 20 hours a day, darn her.
But there's still a part of me that wants to roll the clock back 5 hours and redo the night here at home. I want someone to teach me a spell or hand me a time turner like they have in the Harry Potter books to get my evening in with the kids and my wife (and the cat). I want a do over.
Unrealistic and a little bit whiny, I know. I'll calm down and go to sleep soon.
One thing I do promise myself about working late is that I wont rush in the morning if I can help it. I'll spend a few extra minutes playing with my son on the floor or making breakfast for my daughter - french toast please - or letting my wife sleep.
A little something back for something lost; like losing a dollar but having an extra candy bar fall out of the vending machine. It's a trade I can live with.