"Are you stirring for me?" Craig bellows over Christmas music and Saturday night clean-up.
"I'm stirring." I turn a scoop of cranberries over on itself. They hiss steam, blooming carmine. I force buoyant ones down, spongy under the spoon tip. They bobble back.
"I'm doing a little CPR on our vacuum here," he says.
Jane at my elbow, the evening storyline spooling behind us, we watch an iceberg of sugar melt into scarlet juice. Then time snaps back. Laundry envelops us in it's voluptuous arms.
And then there's Craig. "Look at all this hair," he touts, a semi circle of pupils gathered around the vacuum underbelly.
"Eww." I witness the de-brining as I cart clean unders to the bedroom.
"Gross, huh?" They nod, eye contact all but abandoned in the dust curls and bristles. "Trash can," he commands.
"Uh, what?" The magic momentarily punctured.
"Trash can," he says again. Jack sprints to the sink and back, me a slalom flag in his path.
"What's THAT?" Myra points to a rubber strap.
"That's the belt. When you press this down here," he pokes the ignition, "it makes this spin around here." He pokes the belt. "It makes the BELT spin around." He taps the belt again, Myra's curls lilting.
"Jane, can you stir the jam," I toss over a shoulder somewhere in her vicinity. I turn another sock right ways, fold it into it's pair.
"Have to put this back on here," Craig continues, snaps a plastic clip over the beater bar.
"Do you have to be really STRONG to do that?" Lucy asks.
"Little bit," Craig smooths his fingers over the seam, "so when it spins, it turns stuff and it sucks in over HERE." He razzes the bristles bar. They nod, brows furrowed in devotion.
A fizzle of jam, "Could you turn it down to medium?" I call to Jane.
"Ok, I need the dust mop," Craig decides. Joey, three paces out, dust mop clenched, breaks for the hall. Caught and undone, the mop flops free. In an arc of love, Craig swoops dust, dirt, and hair into a smallish heap.
"Daddy, I put the screws in!" Jack triumphs, the mouth of the vacuum open over his knees.
"I knew you'd do a great job on it," Craig banters, arms length now from the spluttering jam. He swirls the crimson waves, quells the splatter.
"I'm weak with chocolate fever," I badinage, the children tumult and clatter at our ankles. He laughs, chocolate bullion stocked in our cupboard next to salt and pepper.
"Are we ready to start?" he calls to the fray. They hush, assess the pillage.
"Yeah," I shout. I snap off a row of chocolate, flourish onto the couch. "I'm assuming the position," I say and prop both feet on the coffee table. I chaw a corner off the chocolate.
Craig jaunts past bubbling jam and laundry towers, "Want me to fan you with one of these?" he says. In exaggerated jest, he snaps a branch from our banana plant, swoons it over me.
And I grin. Mirth. I can't help it. Cranberry tang, the vacuum resurrected, bricks of chocolate, an unremitting tide of clean-up, and it all fades. Devotion rises. Devotion wins.
4992. The dining room lamp dies. Jane hauls the schoolroom lamp up to dinner, sets the spread, and calls us.
4993. Jack cycles all the kids' laundry into big billowing clean piles.
4994. I scorch two gallons of Mexican gumbo and rescue it from demise.
4995. "I love you," Myra says and frames my face in her hands. "It's just nice being here with you."
4996. "I just get a flashlight to get the eggs and haul wood," Myra says. "I'm BRAVE," she blinks. "Buuuut I need someone to come with me to get the eggs 'cause I'm afraid a chicken will BITE me. I don't want them to bite me open."
4997. "Would you rather live an the middle of the dessert of the middle of the arctic?" Craig asks at dinner. "Elephant," Myra announces, determined to participate. "Say elephant," she whispers to Lucy.
4998. "Maybe when I am six my vision will get really good," Lucy confides curled into my lap before bed. "Maybe," I say, "I pray for your eyes all the time." I kiss her forehead.
4999. Jack rubs my back while I sing to Joe before bed.
5000. Jack and Lucy fry eggs for the family each morning. "Which one do YOU want, Momma," Jack says.
5001. Peppermint bark popcorn.
5002. A new skein of apple green yarn.
5003. A pinwheel quilt. I sew the stresses of the week into the arms of a pinwheel quilt.
5004. Craig unpacks the bowels of his shop and crafts a new age of order.
5005. "I found where someone spilled the butter," Craig announces, wiping the sole of his foot.
5006. "Jack could I help make bread?" Myra pines.
5007. "The plebeians are actually more important than you think," Jane concludes as we study ancient Rome, "'cause they can get together and be stronger than the strong people."
5008. A friend reminds me that the best discipline happens when your eyes are kind. I press this into my mind. Memorize it and the love with which it was said.
5008. We circle the gate of another week. Spindrift of socks and knit sweaters, playing cards, a silver mechanical pencil, a green plastic cup, Myra's brown monkey -- we orbit a universe of overflow. We excavate minutia, splendid and elephantine, into piles we can manage. We outline order. We trace it's face. And in the end, gentle and warm, we find devotion curled in our lap.