"Mom, what do you think I should be when I grow up?" Lucy says. She nudges a foot against Craig's seat, wriggles to sit taller. She peers around the armrest, seatbelt looped over a shoulder.
I knit two more stitches, dark purple yarn, then purl two, knit two. "Hmmm," I say, but I'm not sure she hears. The hot sun, humid ocean air, six of us beached in the car, we wait, the moments elongated and moist.
Craig, somewhere in the belly of Safeway, fetches a few staples: toilet paper, mayo, mustard, potato chips. I debate if I should take off my running jersey or just try not to move and sweat.
"How much longer do you think 'til he gets here?" Jane asks. She pulls an old pink comforter up to her chin, the picnic blanket. She had tripped when the big sneaker wave gushed up on shore, a sluice through her hair. She had spat and spluttered the salty water, and laughed. Oh courage, she laughed.
But, Lucy had jumped, gripping Craig's arm. And he had curled her heavenward, muscled her to the sky, grit and salt a spout around her knees.
"Do you think I should be an artist?" Lucy says.
Swish-click, another knit of purple, "Yes," I say, the invisible stitch between knit and purl.
An artist. Art, it's all seeing, learning to see, to trace the tiny, near-invisible deviation from normal, the one that makes your face, you, and mine, me. An artist, yes she would be good at this.
"Then I can go to gallery meetings," she says, "and paint stuff." She nods, impressed with the minutia.
Then, as if water through our fingers, a whole week on the beach passes by, feet smoothed on sand, faces peached from sun. It's Saturday breakfast and last-minute packing.
"I want to sit in the back on the way home," Jane announces, her green cereal bowl padded with a full-sized paper towel folded down to catch drips.
"I think you have to," I say, swirl my coffee, and take a swig.
"Didn't you sit in the middle row on way here?"
"I did half, and Jack did half," she says.
She leans a pink sleeve on the table, watches a diving duck out the front window. It disappears. Hup. She holds her breath. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three... one-thousand-nineteen. Puff. She scoops another square of cereal. We watch for the duck to re-emerge.
"It's nice to sit by someone who is closer to my age," she continues, "so they know more how to encourage me." She rests the spoon back in the green bowl, time a forgotten commodity. "It's not just like saying, You're great," she shakes her head. I watch her curls concuss around her elbows. "I mean, I want evidence,"she says. "Let me put it this way, I want to know they mean it." She nods, lips drawn up, perfect pink.
"Yeah," I say, "me too." I recline, time loose around my ankles.
She dredges the last of the cereal and drinks the milk. She gathers the paper towel like a nest under the bowl and ambles to the sink. Her curls almost waist length, a dalmatian on the front of her shirt, I note the interweaving of child and adult.
And then, the long drive home. It's the shortest yet. We seven squeeze in and unfurl the stories. Narnia: The Horse And His Boy, The Magician's Nephew, The Last Battle.
"No, no, turn it off," Jane shouts from the back when the Shift, the ape, captures the stage. "I can't bear to hear him LIE like that." Lie -- artful, beautiful, horrible lies. They slither, seem alive. "No, I won't listen to it." Her voice visceral, she clamps hands over ears, frowns resolute.
And then we stop, again, all seven of us paused so Myra can pee. Or not, again. "Really? You can't pee?" I say.
"No. I think maybe my tummy was actually hurting because I wanted to snuggle with you," she says. I nod, pull up her pants and hike her three-year-old self on my hip. We head back the suburban. She wraps her arms around my neck.
The drive is long, full. It's the last bite of dessert before you're overfilled and really too full. But we never reach that point, just really, just right full.
4848. "The end of plums is at the horizon line," Jane says as we process plums for freezing. "It goes straight from plums into ocean," she says.
4849. Finally, we pile into the suburban, packed to the gills, and set out for vacation.
4850. I finish knitting Myra's blue dress. She loves it.
4851. The beach house. We arrive in one piece. Happy memories greet us. Peace, like a long sigh, trails through the house. We swell with gratitude.
4852. We walk the beach, Myra's willowy hand in mine. "Why do roly-polies run?" she asks. "'Cause they have legs," I say.
4852. "My pants are rainy," she chatters, slaps her wet jeans.
4853. Paradise-sun. We play in the sun.
4854. Sunset, the kids race the waves and gold light.
4855. Myra dons her new sweater and kicks up the sand.
4856. Jane and I play Quarto! Then we have a dueling playoff with the other kids.
4857. Hot tub. We play on the beach until a core chill settles in, then pile in the hot tub.
4858. We retreat for naps. Craig and I land in the window seat, sun full and bright, waves cresting. I fall asleep in his arms.
4859. We finally circle back home and find it just the same as before. Home, the perfect punctuation.