Sunday, June 29, 2014

Radish Harvest

"Why don't we divide up the baby ones?" Jane says. Spindrift past the elbows, Jane, Jack, and Lu, scrub a harvest of radishes. They snap the cherry heads and pile them in the large mixing bowl. They highgrade the slender babies.

"This is my pile," Jack snips a nimble baby from green plumes and sets it on his pile.

"Why don't we divide them up?" Jane angles, her elbows vigorous engines scrubbing down to the nubby red flesh.

"I'm done." Jack pours half a dozen drips from the bottom of his bin. "Here," he says, "want me to help you, Jane?" He pulls an arching leaf, a bulbous root. He scrubs, farmer devotion sprawled across his face. He grabs another, scrubs it, lobs it in the mixing bowl, another and another, finally a baby. He scrubs, snaps the frindle leaves off, pauses. He looks at his pile, the babies. He looks back at the radish, then Jane. "Let's make one BIG pile," he says.

"Yeah," she nods, "then we can divide them up." She shanks her head to one side, "Not like everyone gets the same number, but all a pile -- about the same."

"Yeah. Yeah." Jack and Lu nod and chime, a board meeting of sorts.

"Oh, I have a return-to-sender," Jane says. She reaches through the facet mist, passes Jack an offending radish. "Return-to-sender," she says.

"Oh," Jack volleys, "smell!" A rising mist of radish, the others glance up. "It smells like SPICY," he bounds his eyebrows up. They nod, inhale. Jack scrubs the radish, lobs, grabs another. It's business, this negotiating, this working out of commerce. It's the art of exchange. They each take a turn at the reins.


5453. Joey poops in the toilet. "It smells like POOP in here," Myra frowns. Sure enough, that boy made the leap.

5454. My cousin joins us at the Tuesday Girls. Mom cuts my hair.

5455. The children weed the beans, weed the peas, and harvest the radishes.

5456. They replant the row the very same day.

5457. We have a picnic out on the lawn -- pizza and salad, strawberries and whip cream.

5458. Jack takes me on a date. "Don't worry, Mom," he says, "I brought money so you don't have to worry about it."

5459. Craig's mom takes a lunch with Jack.

5460. Mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, we make it a party.

5461. That big mixing bowl now filled with strawberries, washed, hulled, and bite size.

5462. Fitted sheets, the kids all get new fitted sheets, the same size and neutral earthy color. They wash them up and make the beds themselves.

5463. Support hose, I get new support hose, the kind that stops blood clots and binds you up fit as a fiddle.

5464. Vitamins.

5465. Mom, helps me tidy the basement. We bring a trash bag and head for the corners. When the corners are clean, you know you're really there.

5466. The World Cup. We gather around to watch the next round of the World Cup. Then the children form teams out on the back lawn.

5467. I start a knitting project for Lucy, a dress in navy, A-line, moss stitch at the hem.

5468. Craig works a full week, rolls up the driveway exhausted every night, and somehow finds the strength to barbecue burgers, host dinner, and guide us unyieldingly.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


"Mom, can you do prayers with me?" Lucy nuzzles her face against my side. Drips of dishwater slide down my arm. I wad a fresh towel in my hands, mop dribbles up my forearm.

"Sure," I say. I lean down and whisper through the curtain of her long hair. "Jesus, I pray you bless Lucy and protect her while she sleeps." She presses her head to my lips. I whisper on, a substance like water between us.

"Jesus, please help me not have bad dreams," she says. And even if I do, please help me not to forget about you," she nudges her closed eyes against me. "Even if they feel real," she adds.

I hug her, her small frame leaned full into me. "Ok, go get in bed." She pads off down the hall on the balls of her feet.

Morning comes and along with it chores, summer work. We rake out the girth of our closets, snag missing socks, rumpled t-shirts, rogue papers, stubs of pencils. We separate the sheep and the goats. We smooth and fold and stack the long arms of winter clothes, toss out the holed knees of jeans. We pack away the sloughed off skin of winter, and form tiny stacks of summer clothes in our drawers.

"See, you have to have space around each stack or you won't keep it neat," I say. They nod more as thank-you than agreement.

Dusk settles, dinner dishes clatter to the sink, and Lu nestles her face up under my elbow.

"Prayers?" she says.

"Sure." There in the veil of her hair we whisper hope in our savior.

"Jesus," she prays, "please make angels sit on my bed. And make it so even if it feels like I'm there in a dream, I know you're there. Amen."

"Amen." A hug and a nudge and she half down the hall, prayer trailed in a wake behind her.

There in the crest, I note an empty space of strength around us, a circlet of neatness, submission. A simple bowing down. There before the sink, we bow down to our Lord.


5442. "It's really sad when adults grow," Lucy says, "'cause then they have to go give all the clothes that they used to be wearing to someone else."

5443. A friend passes hand-me-downs to us.

5444. We start the season of summer barbecues. Rain marks the first one. Holed up inside, the kids trolly through picnic games and the adults visit late into the evening.

5445. Myra and Lu take a break from cleaning. "What are you two doing?" I say. "I'm a dog," Myra says. Lucy nods. "You are supposed to be cleaning," I say. Everyone stares.

5446. Raw sugar, white balsamic vinegar, a fabric ruler, the staples replenish.

5447. My aunt sends me an e-mail on gardening. We catch up electronically.

5448. Jane and I go on a date of errands. I remember again, she's one of my favorite people to visit with.

5449. Craig and I go on a date. We by rice, 25 lbs.

5450. Joe sits by me at church. He reaches his pudgy hand inside mine. We hold hands.

5451. Cerissa and I sit on her front lawn and watch the cousins bike ride up and down the block. Sirens of laughter and squeals of enjoyment, the night slips in silent beneath our feet.

5452. Summer finds us ready for a season of cleaning and discipline, freedom really. We prepare to be free.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I say. Myra and I swing our legs, a gargantuan garden bench our perch. We scan the river for Mr. and Mrs. Mallard no where to be seen.

"Like how many kids?" she says.

"No, what do you want to BE when you grow up?" I carve a fingernail into the foil and wax paper of a lifesaver roll.

"Like my name?" she chirps in ascending scale.

"No," I say. I flip a cherry lifesaver from the roll, pop it in my mouth. She nibbles the corner of a hand sized chocolate bar, a square one. "No," I say again, "what do you want to BE?"

"Like type?" she cocks her head. "Like boy or girl?" She tries for another nibble. A flap of gold foil pokes her nose. I clank the life saver into my cheek.

"No," I say, "like, what do you want to DO?"

"Oh." She tries for another bite. The foil flubs her nose again. "I don't know." She plucks the chocolate from the foil sheet. "Can't I just take it out?"

"No, it will sprinkle crumbs on your dress and melt." I open the foil like a book and stuff it back in. "Here, just fold it over like this." I crumple the corner.


"So what do you want to BE?"

"A girl." Red ringlets and green paisley dress, she scans the river bank. "Look, the water's bubbly over there." She points at a white smudge. I crunch the cherry saver.

"Who's the best girl you know?" I say. 


"Who's the best woman you know?"

"You." We nod. The river rushes, a trickling rush from our perch. We swing our legs. "I would have said Jesus," she says "'cause he's the nicest one forever."

"Huh." We exchange listening sounds. "Excepts he's a boy," I say.

"Yeah." A neon green bike cycles by on the trail.

"Anything you want me to be praying about for you?" I say.

"Like at bedtime?" She flashes her blue eyes at me like blinking beacons.

"Anything you want."

"Oh, like bad dreams. I had a bad dream someone was trying to kill me." She strikes the casual beat of adult chat.

"Kill you?" I splutter. "What do you mean?"

"Someone had a bunch of animals they put out," she says. "And they tried to fire some fire on me and kill me. And then I tried to kick him." She nods to the commentary. I note her prayer. But I notice fresh how she's mastered the call and return of conversation.

Bad dreams, foible of childhood, we map the terrain, unmask the shadows, practice the gentle sway of words exchanged. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard never show up, but mother and daughter never leave.


5426. The hot water heater breaks. Again. Craig fixes it. Again.

5427. Cerissa has the Tuesday girls over. She spoils us with salad, balsamic and basil. We dig perennials in her front bed for Rose.

5428. I make rice salad for dinner. "Jesus, thank-you that Mom served us expensive food for dinner," Lucy prays.

5429. Craig's mom celebrates another birthday.

5430. Jack weeds the whole wide long garden over and over. He pulls a chair up garden-side, gestures for me to sit, watch the show. He weeds. I recline, eat an ice cream sandwich.

5431. Dad and Mom join us for bbq. Craig makes burgers; we stack 'em high and deep. Conversation weaves with the trill of unexpected turns. We laugh until we cry.

5432. "Jack's feeding his spider some lunch," Lucy says. "I need some tape for it so the jumping spider doesn't get out."

5433. "For SHAME," Jane shouts across the back lawn. "Mom, he's gonna build a new fort just so he doesn't have to be in there with Myra." He hangs his head. They make a new plan.

5434. I catch a stroke of the flu, turn by turn become truly pathetic. Of course Mom know just how to cheer me, and Craig can still make me laugh.

5435. Peppermint soap, a bunch of bananas, ginger candy, more candy, lollipops, chapstick -- a Trader Joe's run.

5436. A green striped summer dress, summer aren't you almost here?

5437. We take the kids to their first parade, a Flag Day parade, farm town style. A family of dear friends joins us.

5438. "That is something I am not going to forget for a very long time," Lucy commentates the parade. She pats a haul of candy the size of her face.

5439. We bbq burgers on the farm. It's a shindig of friends and family and mustard-ketchup-drippy burgers. Craig's mom bakes three pies.

5440. Father's Day, one of my favorite days. I celebrate my father, first pillar of masculine strength, devotion, and love. I celebrate my husband, the wellspring of our home. And a shout out to Craig's dad, the first man he respected.

5441. Strength flows from these men, substance that is impossible to counterfeit. Hats off to the men who hold up the sky.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


"I like the name Jumpsen Kapsey," Myra says. She hops off the black couch. A tear in the leather yawns close next to a shiny slick where I tried to glue it.

"Oh," I say. "Is that your chicken's name?" Oatmeal in one hand, coffee in the other, I beeline for the table.

"No," she says, "it's Jumpy."

"Oh," I slide onto the table bench, find a crumb-free radius and set up camp.

"Wanna know his middle name?" she says. I smoosh a mountain of cinnamon like a sinkhole in the middle of the oats.

"Yeah," I say.

"Jumpy," she says again, "no, Rosie, JUMPY ROSIE." She nods, her paisley dress all exclamations.

"Oh," I contribute a listening sound, bump my spoon past a strata of pecans and yogurt.

"The black chicken's mine," she chimes, "the one without the scraped off neck." She approximates a ghastly bald spot on the chicken's neck. It got henpecked. "Lucy has the scraped-off-neck one."

"Um hmm," I hum mid bite.

"The brown chickens are piggies," she says. "They just eat up all the food we give them."

"Piggies, huh?"

"Mom," Jack calls at the window. A flap of torn screen, Joe had his whole head through that screen half hour a go. "Mom," Jack says, "can I weed the garden?"


"Mom," Myra gushes, "if there is a huge, huge weed on the end of the garden, can I PULL it?"

"I guess so."

She trollops out, her bare feet in three/four time over the hardwood.

The garden, our summer destination. Some people have a pool; we have a garden. They lean crook-necked over those smudges of sprouts and will them to live and swell and stretch up big. Then we water and harvest and harvest and water. We eat every drop that flows from those strong green limbs.

And they weed, of course. A hundred a day. Each. The work makes us strong.

"Do you need any help?" Myra calls through the ripped screen.

"No, I'm ok," I say.

"Call me if you need any help, ok?"


Work. Something like work laces through all the good moments.


5406. Mom serves fruit salad gourmet with raspberries and coconut on Tuesday.

5407. Lucy gets a stack of scraps for a dolly quilt. She plans it out and starts chain sewing.

5408. The owner of a local bookshop gives me a set of old shade maps that attach to our old chalk board.

5409. Mom loans me a vintage classic: Worth While Stories For Every Day by Lawton B. Evans, circa 1917.

5410. Jack gets a book of stories on dog heroes.

5411. Jane takes her annual testing and flies through it.

5412. My newest nephew joins us: Calvin Joseph. Perfect.

5413. We visit the hospital. Jane and Lu hold the newborn. Timeless bundle, we stare and stare.

5414. I remember my love of sketching and sketch with the kids all week.

5415. Lucy and I take a date at a local garden and sketch iris together.

5416. We finish parts I and II of Gulliver's Travels. Parts III, and IV, here we come.

5417. I begin Dicken's Our Mutual Friend.

5418. Jack and I plant tomatoes and watermelon in the kids' garden. He checks them everyday, gets a sunburn weeding with his shirt off.

5419. We pick up and head to the farm on a moment's notice. The car piled with children and food, we eat supper with the people who made Craig who he is. The pleasure continues.

5420. His mom passes on an electronic copy of the Bible and a magazine from Ravi Zacharias.

5421. Rose throws a 30th surprise birthday party for Pete. And Pete surprises us. He comes in the wrong gate trying to sneak up on his bride.

5422. On the way to the party, Jane spots a panhandler. "There's a guy with a sign that says: ANYTHING HELPS," she says. "But punching him in the face wouldn't help."

5423. We make another trip to the local used bookstore and reel in more classics. Our library swells.

5424. I visit with the shop owner, renew our friendship.

5425. Craig and I find ourselves moving more in harmony, as if running a household were as simple as playing both hands on the piano.

Sunday, June 1, 2014


"Smile, smile, smile," I poke Joey's cheeks and twiddle his ears. "Smile, big boy." ABC Song Book under one arm, he relents, splits a grin. I smile. "Good job, go play." He thumps off in pudgy bare feet.

"Why do you do that?" Jane says. I stand to full height. There at the old black table, she watches me. I slide next to her on the bench. That speckled gray sweater Great-Grammie made years ago, a pair of blue jeans, a pile of schoolwork, she pauses in natural habitat to fish an answer out of my face.

"We know how to smile when we don't really want to," I say, "like just make your face do it, but he doesn't." I picture again his impish frown, the whiny cock of his head, the way he clutched the sing-song-book and almost mouthed the word NO though no one was there. I see the same reel playing behind Jane's eyes, as if we are reviewing the same footage.

"Oh," she says. "He thinks your feelings control your face. But we know your face controls your feelings." She gives a half nod, almost a salute, agreement, as if joining a team.

"Yeah," I say. That schoolwork bunched up around us, Jack galloping through math drill an arm's length away, and for a moment, the whole lens of learning leans in on the polestar of Joe's face.

Smile. Make yourself do it. Let the tail feathers of emotion fold perfectly under your wings.

Something placid and full, like a rising moon, rests on Jane's face. She glides through the work like an open sail.


5395. "This has STRAWBERRIES in everyone," Myra chimes over my lentil soup garnished with salsa.

5396. We have dinner with my parents, the night a perfect circle of love.

5397. Dad tells Mom to buy treats for the Air Show, so we shop together. We make a pitstop at the park to sketch iris.

5398. Craig's Mom brings up a flat of fennel she let sit under the warming love of her greenhouse.

5399. Craig's grammie turns 99, a real gem of a woman.

5400. We meet for the annual Air Show on a blanket in a field near the end of the runway. The airplane army on precision display, the children's mouths drop open. They cheer. They cry. They laugh and point. The thunder crack of their engines rattles our chests.

5401. Tears fill my eyes. The honor of men and women willing to die for our freedom fills me with gratitude and salute. Honor.

5402. My baby brother turns 30. He makes it look like the perfect age, does it every year.

5403. I plant the rest of our garden except for a few marigold. A wholesome season of growth begins. I check it every morning.

5404. I finish Great Expectations. The ending surprises me.

5405. We reel in the week, prepare for the next. A fermata of enjoyment separates the the two.