"No, no you have to do a rough draft," I say. "It's Daddy's birthday; make it nice."
"But I don't know how," Lucy bows her voice almost to a whine.
"You're a smart girl, figure it out," I say. She slouches. I straighten a pile of receipts. "It's my card. If you want to use it, you have to do a rough draft."
She sighs, pinches a paper from the printer, snaggles it on the corner.
"Here," I guide the sheet past a stack of bills and papers to file.
I lace up my shoes. The day folds into my morning run, several piles of laundry, and a serac of boots and mittens piled by the back door.
The children glissade, luge style, down Craig's ice slide outback. We watch from the big black table, Craig and I. We sip coffee, eat lentil soup by the taco chip scoopful, that bag of parmesan we forgot in the pantry for three days turning out to be just fine, better even.
And the day ellipses back. I circle the bases once again. One of the signing boards pulled out at the desk, I stop -- a slip of paper, Lucy's pencil nub cast to one side.
"Dadda," I read. "I like how you provide for our family. I like how you provide money for our family." I look up, Lucy scampered to procure jammies and brush teeth. I dwindle into the creaky desk chair. "I like how you help us have fun. You help us have fun by shoveling snow so we can sled," I read. "I like how you let Mommy have her way. I like how you help us when we get hurt. Love, Lucy."
My arm sighs back to the desk. Dadda. Lucy. She notices when I get my way? A rough draft. I didn't expect her to get so much, to sum up our marriage, our family in a single slice.
Underneath the signature, a picture of her and Daddy shoveling show. An arc of love washes over me.
5150. "Mom," Myra says, "the toilet's plugged, and there aren't even a hundred pieces of toilet paper in there."
5151. I make Bavarian Lentils: ten cents per serving.
5152. I call Title Nine with an order gone wrong and they treat me like royalty.
5153. Bacon cauliflower soup.
5154. Dear friends come for dinner with their beautiful children. "They have really good manners," Jack says. "Yeah, and they talk to grown-up really well, like they've been doing it their whole lives," Jane says.
5155. "You don't have to sit that close to the heater," Craig says to Jack, one cheek flushed red. "Well, I'm trying to melt the wax out of my ears," he says.
5156. Dad and Mom come for dinner. Lentils and bread, kale salad, gourmet nuts by the fire, laughter and encouragement, sustenance.
5157. Butter. Mom brings butter to the dinner party, a brilliant surprise.
5158. Craig takes me on a date to The Hobbit.
5159. A neighbor gives us hand-me-downs.
5160. I finish Lucy's coral red sweater. We garnish it with teal dragonfly buttons.
5161. Jane wants a yellow sweater to match little Rockie Amelia. I start it as soon as Lucy's binds off.
5162. I find deep plum winter leggings on winter clearance.
5163. Mom and I find perfect birthday gifts for the next round of birthdays.
5164. We start Treasure Island with the kids, A Tale of Two Cities waiting in the wings.
5165. Jack and I go on a date. He pushes the cart while we grocery shop.
5166. Craig's mom and grandmother stop by, hand deliver his birthday card.
5167. Spice jars.
5168. A magnetic pin collector.
5169. A wreath for the front door.
5170. I turn my back. Joey raids the butter dish, then the honey pot.
5171. My brother and sister-in-law invite us for a good old fashioned Super Bowl party. Brats and pretzels, root beer, carrot sticks, chips, and a flurry of children and cheering, I re-bond with the good old game.
5172. Cerissa shares the Sunday school paper Logan filled out on his own: The Lord loves a cheerful _______. FART he writes in perfect cursive.
5173. Craig turns 41, and we remember together: fourteen years ago, he asked me to marry him.
5174. We make a weekend of playing together, the children lovely props in the adventure.
5175. And I come full circle, struck again by Lucy's rough draft, her obedience to me. Obedience. It's the great intensifier. Love was never made so pure and sweet without it.
5176. And so it is, we submit to one another. Love ensues.