"Did you really not want to hold the baby," I glance at the rearview mirror, Jane just beyond its perimeter, "or were you afraid it would make it hard or something?" We skim beneath an overpass, our headlights lemon-yellow on cement pillars.
"No. I really didn't want to," she says. The rest of our crew sliding toward bedtime, Jane and I had jaunted out to see baby Lydia, barely 24 hours old now.
"Ok." The roads all but empty, I make a wide turn, glide into the far lane. "I just ask," I say, "because when I was young I didn't really always say what I meant. I had to learn to stand up for myself." I crane my neck around backward, cast my face her direction, then coil back to attend the road.
"Mom," she says, "when I say something, don't doubt me." Her words land solid, like a shot-put in grass. "That's why I'm bad at joking: I mean what I say."
"Yeah. I like that." I simile at the roundness of her words, each one plenum, each one a small globe, warm and beating in the ether between us. We sweep past a vacant exit. Spheres of fog encircle neon lights.
"I think," she says, "most people, when they come from a big family, learn to speak up, otherwise they just become the runt." She traces the folds of our family, our angular edges softened against each other.
"Yup. I think you're right."
And so it is, we cultivate our voice. We conceive it there in the soil of chores and toil, competition and the laying down of ourselves for each other. We carve out that space where each word stands full stature.
We teach each other to speak. And we listen, the two-edged stroke of each word nothing to trifle with.
4899. "I just love that there's a perfect answer to all the traps," Jane says about Jesus's replies to the Pharisees.
4900. "Momma, why do your lips look so pretty/" Lucy asks. "It looks like you have your party-lips on," Myra says. I wear lipstick for family pictures.
4901. We meet for an afternoon of family pictures with sweet sis-in-law Rose. Bliss.
4902. "I think it said something about how the buildings were made of marbles," Jack comments on the temple under King Herod.
4903. "Mom, it sounds like Joey's playing in the bathroom," Jack warns. And then we find him filling a water glass in the toilet.
4904. Myra has an accident, then saddles up with four pairs of underwear to prevent any others.
4905. Maple garlic sausage soup.
4906. "Jesus, thank-you that we can always do Bible study," Lucy prays, "even when we are scared."
4907. Craig brings me a chocolate bar: milk chocolate with coconut flakes and black lava salt.
4908. Raw sugar, coconut milk, baby mandarins, balsamic reduction, chocolate, lemon soap, dunkers -- a Trader Joe's run is always such a treat.
4909. A new sketch book, the pages feel extra smooth.
4910. The New King James Version of the Bible, we find it a good family fit.
4911. The kids and Craig and I take a scenic train through the mountains up north with Craig's parents. The fall air shatters crisp against our faces.
4912. We picnic in a park, warmed by the sun. We linger over zucchini bread.
4913. Jane and I skitter to the bookstore, buy up the last supplies for this quarter.
4914. Joey wakes up early from nap and eats the travel toothpaste.
4915. We reiterate with the children that the way they treat each other is the way they treat us. Their love for each other is their love for us.
4916. I trace again the principle: my love for others is perhaps the most perfect rendering of my love for God. I pray he grows my love.