"The person who keeps the internet must have a lot of kids," Jack says.
I scroll down a page of patterns. Knitting. Pullovers and cardigans, raglan sleeves, yoke necks, turtlenecks, shrugs - Jack peers over my shoulder. The sweaters blurs by.
I sigh, click on a vintage cardigan. I scan examples, a sweater in oatmeal, in lime, plum, tangerine, gray.
Jack leans on my shoulder. "And he's really good at knitting, it looks like," he says.
I stop, turn from the computer to smile into his eyes. His face breaks into dimpled grin. "Go play," I say. He gambols down the back stairs a handmade slingshot under one arm.
"Are you cool?" Craig asks him later. "Jack, are you cool?" he prods. It's dinner hour. The seven-year-old boy sidled up to the stove, frying pan bubbling, he flips an egg sunny side down.
"What's cool?" he says. He scrapes a snaggled piece of egg off the iron skillet, dredges it through a puddle of browned butter.
"Jack, are you COOL?" Craig says again, Joe scooped in his arms. He slaps Jack across the back of the shoulders using Joe's arm. They stand there, frying pan popping, the handle too hot to touch, a theatre of egg unfolding, mirth lilting.
"Oh," Jack says, throws his head back, nods, "it has another meaning." He flips the egg again. Someone chariots through the kitchen, a renegade game of tag. Someone sets the table, drops a bowl, scoops it up. The scenes flutter by.
"Mom," Myra says next day at school, "Lucy's my ART teacher."
"Yeah?" I say.
The children sprawled in morning seatwork, I sew Christmas skirts for the girls and me. Red with black polkadots, taffeta, crisp lines - I smooth the skirt, estimate where to hem it.
"Her always does that for me," Myra says. Belly down on the floor, butcher paper and crayons a raft of artwork, she props her face, blinks, nods all bumpy on her elbow.
"I'm her MATH teacher," Jack says.
I pin the skirt hem, glance at Jack captivated by a 100 problem math drill. A hundred of them and he just plows right through.
"Jack's my MATH," Myra says. She sweeps a wide arc of brown, scribbles it into a hill. Jack scrawls more numbers. Lucy scampers off, sketch book under one arm, pencil dangling on the spiral bind.
And so we build our culture, our family culture. One teaches another and another. They strive and reach and jump and strain. They grow and contend and struggle and resolve. And win. Something happens between them: the certainty of love.
Confidence emerges. It's the lighthearted skip down the back stairs. It's the throwing back of his head, and grin, Oh, it has another meaning. It's the romance of math, the 100 problem math drill. Solidarity. Strength. It's the tendon that connects all the muscle.
5036. Rosie paints my nails Christmas RED.
5037. I practice piano. "Why aren't you playing that with the metronome?" Jack says.
5038. I finish knitting my Christmas sweater. It fits perfect, festive gray.
5039. "Hey Beauty, whatcha thinking about?" I ask Lucy on the way home from the gallery meeting. "Beautiful, what are you thinking about?" I ask again, her lost in thought. "Oh," she says, "'bout how I'm gonna get good at minus." Math. It's food for the mind. "I can do it pretty good, but I'm, gonna get faster," she says.
5040. Lucy accompanies me to the gallery meeting. It's at the chocolate shop, but most have to cancel. We have drinking-chocolate with Mom, then shop for Christmas.
5041. "Mom," Myra says, "you're a good knitting girl."
5042. Jack scoots over on the couch and rubs my back.
5043. I sew red stripes to the back of my wool socks so the kids won't take them.
5044. We listen to Huckleberry Finn with the kids. We laugh at Huck's antics. I marvel at Mark Twain's genius in writing dialogue.
5045. "Joe-Joe, careful. If you dump it, water's gonna be on the ground," Myra warns Joe. "If he spills it," she says to me, "we can just wipe it up."
5046. Jane and I shop for Christmas pjs. Then she wraps them all up and stows them under the tree.
5047. We run into a terrible battle of the wills. "You can be a champion or a slave," I say. "They do exactly the same thing, just different attitudes."
5048. In the end friendship emerges. Respect and love, affection. Discipline does it's good work. Devotion wins.
5049. "I'm dezausted," Myra says. "Dezausted means you're hungry."
5050. "MmmmMm. I was smellin' your hair. And it smells YUMMY," she says while she brushes my hair.
5051. We fall into bed far too late for too many nights. And still, I feel it each time, joy, contentment next to the man I love.