"Ya old softie," Craig croons elbow deep at the sink, lunch remains parted like the Red Sea under his persistent touch.
The children a-scuttle around the open floor-plan, living room wide and sunny-yellow, Myra and Joe washed up in the loft like pebbles on the lakeshore, Jane proposes: story hour. She cajoles really, pokes, and pricks, gentle-teases, persuades, makes the gradual winning-over, until finally, I swing, full-stride into story hour.
"I know." I almost roll my eyes but smile, lean into it, let vacation settle in like sandy surf, rough and perfect, all even under my feet.
"I'm through the middle layer to the marshmallow center," Jane smiles coral and sparkling, her eyes translucent blue. "Now," she forms tiny wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, "I just have to keep it there."
I smile back soft, marshmallowy as if all my rigid edges were pliable. Sweet.
They wrangle under blankets, one after the next, two wedged on one bed, another on the floor, in the closet. They form a nest, reposed, all blankets and sleepy sighs. Myra pins bluey-blankie under her toes and stretches the long knit over tummy up to her shoulders.
"I just love Psalm 1." Jane, snugged in and still, weaves another strand: Psalm 1.
"Me too. That is such a good one." I slide up onto the dresser, criss-cross my legs, sling the book on my lap.
"One time," Janie says, "I woke up at five and just started repeating that until I fell asleep."
Psalm 1. Repeating it. An ocean of peace. A cadence heartbeat. A metronome of love. "That is such a great idea. I love that."
She nods. The others wrap themselves in a metamorphosis of covers and blankets. They gradually quiet. And we begin.
In the courtyard of a small temple on the same street as the grand Dagoda of the Enchanter, the Forbidden Princess came nightly to her balcony...
They listen silent and full, and the gentle feather of a story flutters, perches, airy-light, in the branchlets of their mind. Downy hooklets, feather barbules, the gentle seesaw of breath, and still, filoplumes of thought alight and shift. Follicles open, blood feathers burgeon, and story happens.
The story makes us new. It's the story of the King.
4502. We paint our living room apple green. Our friends come and help us paint, a green-washing celebration. "Oh no, we're staying until it's done," they say. And the task is short and fun.
4503. Paint. The paint was a gift.
4504. Vacation. Another dear friend calls, wants to know if we'll finish the week at their time-share, a gift, another gift.
4505. We eat salted-chocolate caramels and maple sugar. Another gift.
4506. I rally the crew to get ready for bed. "Mom," Jack visits while he works. "If I don't have enough money to be a farmer and a rancher," he says, "I'm gonna still be a rancher because then I still can have fresh butter and things like that." Yum. I'm glad.
4507. The Blueberry Barn. We eat breakfast at the Blueberry Barn. Caramelized onions, golden hash browns, ham, eggs, hollandaise, children and waffles and real whip cream, and Craig, the ever constant hum of love and strength, it's perfect. Breakfast is perfect.
4508. We take the long route home. We make a wrong turn and Craig circles back to thread us through the rolling prairie, sage brush, and old brick schools.
4509. I knit all the way home, seven inches on Jane's soft blue sweater.
4510. We listen to Perelandra all the way through, soak in the honor, the fight, the willingness to die for righteousness. Unflappable courage.
4511. We come to rest once again at home, the walls farmhouse-green, furniture gradually pushed back to the walls.
4512. We buy a whole gallon of fresh raw honey and pour some into a mason jar.
4513. I catch up with my mom.
4514. I find two skirts and customize them to my style.
4515. The cousins bring over popsicles.
4516. My brother and his wife buy their first house. Craig dashes over to help paint. The kids and I rally with pizza for dinner, the whole night a celebration.
4517. Craig and the kids pick up chicks to raise for eggs: Black Australorps. Golden Sex Links, Rhode Island Reds.
4518. The kids watch them day and night.