"What's soda water?" Jane chirps from the backseat.
"It's water that's fizzy," I say, "with no flavor. Doesn't that just sound like something I would like?" Marooned at a red, white, and blue gas station, the fifth or sixth so far, Craig runs in. Soda water, he's looking for soda water. We stay buckled in.
"One time I had Sprite," Jane says. I feel her lean forward. "Oh, this is a memory that I'm not gonna get out a my mind," she titters. "We were at Rocky Rococo's, and Daddy gave me a glass I thought was WATER, and I DRANK it and was like..." She trails into gurgles. They erupts into chortles.
"What's SPRITE?" Jack demands.
"It's a type," Jane recovers, "of SODA." She straightens, nods, anchored with importance.
And we wait. All strapped in and eager, we wait. The sun crystalline, the sky azure, we wait, momentum gathered and silent.
"Your daddy is so patient with me," I say. Elbow wheedled against passenger window, I stare at the sky, summer blue in November, the hush of the trip bonded between us.
"Oh," Jane says.
"You know, for about three years before he met me, he prayed for patience," I say. "The Lord gave him many difficult things to grow patience in him." I lean an elbow over my seat, the sun scattered across my face. "And it was one of the sweetest gifts he's ever given me," I say.
"Oh," Jack says. The windows portals of light, we stare at the sharp cityscape around oil stained lot.
"Ya know," I say, "the gifts that you can't wrap up and put a bow on, end up being the ones you treasure for a lifetime."
"Yep," Jane says.
Craig, lithe over the dingy blacktop lopes to the car. He strides, optimism like diesel.
"Did you find it?"
"Nope," he says. "Not yet." He turns the key, swivels the steering wheel, propels us to the next stop. Six, eight, nine, I don't know how many. I just know we left with soda water. And love.
5009. "Ok, let's start this trip off RIGHT," Craig tackles Jack.
5010. We take a trip to the beach. A whole clutch of family gathers, prepares Thanksgiving, gives thanksgiving, lingers in the bond of family.
5011. My aunt and uncle have us all, all 21 of us, for a week of celebration. So accommodating, so gracious, so high class and hospitable, the weekend unfolds like a symphony.
5012. We feel it again: blood is thicker than water. Cousins play. Adults linger late into the night over board games and Canasta. Parents and children slow to look each other full in the face.
5013. We collect agates, bags of them.
5014. We thrift shop in droves.
5015. And I run with my dad. We run and talk. It's the best. All that wisdom and life tied up in someone I respect so much, someone I just plain like. We run nine minute miles. I can hardly believe it. The time with Dad is such a highlight.
5016. Craig drives the whole journey there and back. We listen to This Present Darkness on audiobook and hang on every word.
5017. Craig teaches the kids how to play Settlers of Catan, and we spend a whole morning playing together.
5018. We unpack and reassemble the house. We settle into the folds of a new week.