"I'm gonna get Jane a sweater," Jack snaps the back door closed, shakes his wellies off, then lopes through the sunroom. He calls over a shoulder, "She's really high up in the tree."
"Oh," I say, but he's already half down the hallway. The thumb-drum of his footsteps on the hardwoods and he reappears, a striped fleece slung over one arm.
"And Lucy is making a salad out of leaves," he says nary missing a beat, "Jane is picking the leaves and throwing them down." He wiles a foot back into his wellie.
"Uh-huh," I nod, shored up there on the green couch, the space heater full blast in front of me.
"I found a stick, one that is shaped like an axe," he says. He corners the other wellie and pounds his foot into it.
"Yeah?" I say.
"See?" he holds up the curved arm of a branch, the end flattened hatchet style, second-cousin to last week's bow and arrow.
"I'm glad you have it," I grin. He dips his chin.
"Bye." He flicks the door shut and gallops around the house's far corner.
I absorb the trumpeting warmth of the heater, picture Jane up in the tree, a carnival of play marionetted below.
Later, lunch orbited into place, dishes and crumbs vanquished, I join the children outside. The matted lawn feathering shoots of green feels spongy.
"Mom, I'm good at football," Myra says. She swings belly-down on the big yellow swing. She gets a running start and flies up as high as she can. "I'm good at football," she says.
"What makes you say that?" I pull my sweater tight around my shoulders and cross my arms against the last nips of winter.
"'Cause," she says, "I'm good at football, means I'm good at swings." She arcs the swing up as high as she can, toes pointed diver fashion. She pendulums back, grins, gives me a knowing nod.
She pulls me in. I nod back, follow the tic-tock of that swing, her blue eyes leading the way.
The week finally circles back to Sunday. I sit at the old hand-me-down lawyer desk, our computer a tiny face atop it. Myra vacillates at my elbow. Almost well from the pukes two days earlier, she lays her face next to my arm.
"You have sunburn on your cheeks," I say. I trickle my finger over a dusting of pink, new freckles just visible.
"How many days 'til my birthday?" she says.
"Twenty-something." I pull a chocolate square from a crinkled wrapper. I nibble the corner. "This chocolate's two years expired," I say. I roll it over my tongue: chalky. "I know what you should get me on my birthday."
"Yeah," she trails off. "How many days 'til my birthday?"
"Twenty-eight, maybe. That's not very much." She smiles. "Then I'll be FOUR." She sits up. "Then five. Then six." She stops at ten. "When I'm ten, then will I be a mommy?"
"No," I smooth her red cloud hair, "you have to be twenty. Or about twenty."
"Oh. Then I will be a mommy?"
I memorize the curve of her smile. "What do you think's gonna be your favorite birthday?" I say.
"Probably when you give me chocolate," she says. She tips her head to me, "I don't even want to think about that."
I mimic the blue circles of her eyes. We blink. "Oh," I say.
He face cascades into a smile. "I want it to be a SURPRISE," she says, "my birthday." The moment laps around our shoulders. "I'm starting to think like a GROWN-UP," she says.
We do that thing where we nod in tandem and synchronize smiles, the matching emotions pleasure between us. I feel it. She's memorizing my face: the creases around my eyes, the eddy at the corner of my mouth, that wrinkle up the middle of my forehead. She's tracing the grown-up way, and it's me.
The main act already begun, and here I was waiting to get to the important part.
5326. "Mom," Lucy asks, "does Hell make you really thirsty?"
5327. I corner Joe, spoon in hand, elbow deep in the twenty-five pound brown sugar sack.
5328. Craig fixes a broken seal on the bathtub pipes.
5329. We replace our 18 year old vacuum. It's a date.
5330. Almost a hundred tomato seeds sprout in our sunroom.
5331. The Tuesday girls meet at our house this week.
5332. Chocolates. They bring chocolate.
5333. New dish towels. The new dish towels, the cotton flour sack ones, suck the water right off the hands.
5334. "You're right," Lucy says from the far end of the table, "reading really is relaxing when you know all the words."
5335. "Whenever I drink tea," Jane gestures to Joe, "he's like magnetized to me." Joe commandeers five different tea cups that day, taking tariff on each one.
5336. "I wear unda-wear," Myra announces, "'cause I'm a-most a woman."
5337. "I pray for my bad dreams," she tells me, "'cause I want the bad guys to go away. The bad guys are afraid of Jesus."
5338. Jack pours tea for Joe. Joey gives his jungle animals a sip out of the tea trough. "No," I say. He retrieves the tiger, licks a drip of his tail. He blows bubbles in the tea, dribbles it down his chin and into his shirt pocket.
5339. Pizza, oh glorious pizza dinner. Salad. Pineapple dessert, a billow of almond whip cream on top, a shovelful of toasted coconut on top more.
5340. Friends invite us for dinner. The soft evening light, a spring soup, the gentle settling of a day, friendship hems us in.
5341. Craig gets two new shirts for work.
5342. Joe gets new jeans: 3T on his strapping 2T self.
5343. Crayons, the fat triangle ones that don't roll off the table.
5344. Pillow shams. Our bed now has shams to match the quilt, melon shams.
5345. Jane and I go on a date. It includes teal leopard print sunglasses.
5346. "Joe can do GUM," Myra announces. "I just chew it up for him, and then he doesn't swallow it. See?" Joe grins, gum squished between his front teeth.
5347. We reel in another week. It feels important. The work of our hands fills us with pleasure.