"Mom, if I were you, I'd let them in." Jane watches from the backseat.
A Honda Civic shimmies past our front bumper. White, a melon shape of rust imprinted on the driver's door, window down, elbow protruding, I frown. They crowd the front sphere of the suburban.
"Why?" I sigh, the day all wide and sky-blue, that white Honda almost fully ahead now.
"'Cause," she says, "it seems like the thing Jesus would do."
I ease back. They scuttle by, seven over the speed limit. I remind myself we're not in a hurry.
We hasten onto the freeway, then weave through town, conversation the rocking sway of a swing.
"That Sunday school teacher that likes Jude," Jane continues, "I bet they are really old."
North along the snaking river, north past the small-town feed store, north up Old Sandy, a right turn, a right turn, somewhere a right turn. I trace the directions again in my mind. "Yeah?" I say.
"'Cause old people are smarter than other people" she says, "and they probably know there aren't that many people with strong personalities left."
"Oh. That's true." A dirt road, a red barn, yes, there it is. I see it just before the mailbox with giant brown numbers: her house, the proctor's house. Testing day, we make a date of it.
Then, it's Thursday.
"Mom, Mom," Jack heralds, "I want to buy you flowers. I have $13 and I am GOING to buy you flowers."
I click send on a note for my friend the one with the new baby all downy soft and fresh and learning to sleep. Jack taps my shoulder. "Mom, when we go to Costco, I just HAVE to buy you flowers. When we go to Costco, we HAVE to look at the flowers?"
I scoop and stack white cereal bowls migrated from table to counter, slop-mop and crooked. A tic-tac leaning tower of diagonals, spoons poking out, I spray them down, leave them to soak.
"When we go to the store, we are going to HAVE to look at flowers," Jack instructs Myra. She nods, her Keen hand-me-downs, like duck feet on backwards.
We wrestle laundry and legos, pencils and paper leaflets, the raisins somebody left out, the dishtowels Joey scattered across the kitchen, and between us all, we pin each in place.
All the while Jack sings in six-year-old falsetto, "I'm going to buy Momma flowers. I'm going to buy Mother flowers." It's like Broadway. And he's never called me Mother.
Windows down, children buckled, the hot wind a scuffle through our hair, I try to sing to the radio. It doesn't really work all lumpy and layered in chit-chat and the tempest gusting through the windows. I stop.
"We are going to HAVE to look for trays of flowers." I slow my rushing day, spot blue eyes and freckles in the far back seat. "I really HOPE we can find flowers," he says. I watch him serious and broad shouldered, all the trays of flowers in the world a slinky of momentum.
I catch his eye, rearview mirror between us. "If I see the perfect tray of flowers," I tell him, eyebrows arched to encircle our moment, "that I am DYING to have, I think I might just let you buy them for me."
And like a bird alighted on my finger, the moment flutters still. He, all man-ish and boyish and freckled, me, captivated, windows down, the blowing air a cyclone around us, he smiles. Adoration. For a moment the criss-cross underpinnings of love show, a whole universe of gossamer threads stronger than steal.
"Yep," he says.
"I feels so special." All I see are those water-blue eyes, his smile a crescent in the sky.
"Well," he says, "I feel special giving them to you."
Giving them to you. Oh, I see it: the open-handed giver. That's how I'm supposed to give. His love encircles me.
4519. Myra helps chop apples with a butter knife. "Wow, my muscles are getting bigger," she says.
4520. Lucy sips my coffee, black and perfect. "How does it taste?" Jack wants to know. "Sort of like coffee grinds," she says.
4521. The kids and cousins play away a whole afternoon on sun and sprinklers, watermelon and wading pool.
4522. Mom makes us corn slaw with peanuts.
4523. Myra pukes. Lucy howls that her tummy hurts, and everyone wakes up in perfect health.
4524. Pizza, apple crisp, dinner with Dad and Mom.
4525. Six peppers and hand-me-down clothes.
4526. Craig shows up with butternut squash sprouts, my favorite.
4527. Cousins come to play. Eight kids and it feels like two. They mesh with our life except with more fun.
4528. Cerissa and I search out knitting patterns.
4529. Trader Joes: all the fixin's for corn slaw plus mustard.
4530. Navy yarn.
4531. Purple potatoes.
4532. Our family trounces out to the latest gallery opening. Friends and family, art, food, sign language, live music, a zephyr of a night.
4533. Craig finds a bike trailer for Joe and Myra on Craigslist.
4534. Libby comes over, and we alter clothes to custom fit.
4534. Godiva chocolate.
4535. Pete and Rosie move into a house from the early 1900s: fresh paint, newly finished hardwoods, a closet converted into a bathroom, nooks and crannies, and lots and lots of natural light.
4536. Firewood. Friends give us a whole pine tree of free firewood. The children have a lovely romp in the woods.
4537. Friends and family from Craig's side gather on the farm, an impromptu party, fields of green in every direction.
4538. Craig has a leader's meeting after church. The kids and I come.
4539. Sunday evening, pop-it firecrackers, cousins, the backyard, perfect.
4540. Two brand new Bibles, leather bound.
4541. The cooling fan in the refrigerator dies. Craig fixes it.
4542. He brings the week in for another soft landing. All things seem easier with him.