"If you look in your tummy," Myra says, "you see Jesus." She lifts her shirt, pats her stomach.
"Five minutes 'til you have to have your jammmies on," I call. She scampers off in sideways gallop, lime leg warmers pulled over her knees over her sky blue pants.
Then, it's Thursday, and we're off to a birthday party, the seven of us leafed into the suburban. Hand drawn cards, rumpled tissue wrap swooning from the gift bag, we bungle from the driveway.
"Last time," Myra says, "I actually saw the moon STOP." She cranes her neck to the moon, a white round apple of a moon out the passenger window. "So, him's stopping," she says as we slow. "Dad, the moon's DRIVING us." She blinkity-blinks her round eyes.
"Look, look, there it is," Jack says. "I see it."
A traffic light blinks green and we accelerate, the moon hot on our heels.
Valentine's Day rolls in, a bowling ball of a day. I even plan a date for Craig and me. The last time I planned a date, we had three less children. The whole evening feels so still, like perfect momentum, as if the force of living together for all these years were in perfect step for a moment, a globe of love hurling down the lane.
We buy a hundred dollars worth of clothes at Walmart, for the kids.
"Guess how much it cost, you guys," we say.
"It's 39 pieces of clothing," I add.
"Oh, ah thirty dollars," Jane says.
"Ten," Jack says.
We lay them out in pyramidal stacks, one for each kid.
"It's sort of like a Valentine's Day gift," I say. "Except, we weren't going to get anything and then something we needed came on Valentine's Day, so it's sort of like a gift."
Jane nods. I smile into her eyes, that smooth marble of love between us, a planet of affection.
"I know," she says, "thanks," her eyes turned up in endearment.
Another frame of bedtime routine -- Joey nursing toothpaste, Jack wrenching it away, Joey howling with gloom. And we all cycle to the next position. Prayer. Joe draped over my knees, Jack snuggled over a shoulder, the girls sprawled and swaddled around Craig, we pray. Eyes closed, the day loose around our shoulders, we pray.
"Jesus," Jane says, "thank-you for helping us to learn that not all things turn out right and not all things turn out wrong." She lilts in gratitude, maps and smooths reality.
"Jesus, thank-you that we have great food," Lucy prays. "And thank-you that we don't have to spend all of our money on our food budget. Amen."
Sometimes things turn out. Sometimes we have money left over. Prayer circles. We chorus in adoration. I hold the gentle weight of their prayers - substance rubbed into my soul.
5190. My nephew turns seven. A jubilant party, buoyant gladness, we celebrate.
5191. Rosie makes turtle cookies and brings them to my mom's. Mom makes white chili.
5192. Jane finishes her very first quilt and puts it on her bed. All the girls start making their beds each morning.
5193. We play Canasta with my parents.
5194. Mom hosts the annual winter birthday party. We encircle Craig and Rose with another year of affirmation. I watch each face speak encouragement and well up with love for them.
5195. Craig and I go on a date. We hold hands and walk in step. It's smooth and even, just like the old days except stronger and more present.
5196. Craig's brother and sister-in-law have us over for lunch. We catch up. We laugh at how all the cousins look like siblings. And we feel again the pleasure of being together.
5197. I find a gift certificate to a local bookstore lost some five years ago, and they still honor it for me, rumpled and all.
5198. I finally finish The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky surprises me with his conclusion: You must know that there is nothing higher, or stronger, or sounder, or more useful afterwards in life, than some good memory, especially a memory from childhood, from the parental home. You hear a lot said about your education, yet some such beautiful, sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. And if a man stores up many such memories to take into life, then he is saved for his whole life. And even if only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation.
5199. One. Good. Memory. Perhaps this teaches us the nature of good and evil more than any formal education. Interesting. A thought worth pondering. I am managing an economy of memories.
5198. I feel this year making a gentle pace of determination. Fortitude and endurance undergird us.