"Mom, did you know I actually caught a ladybug with my BARE hands?" Myra says. She hikes a shoeless foot up on the brick wall and lilts into the raised garden bed.
I pluck basil leaves. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, I stack them in my palm.
"It was a RED one," she says. "The red ones are the HARDEST to find." Eyebrows reeled up earnest, she looks at me out of the top of her eyes. I glance up, mimic the sincerity, a smile snagging free of my lips.
"Oh," I say.
"Oh," she says, "THERE'S one." She points to a cucumber leaf, limp in the midday heat, and sets her hand over it. A moment later, she palms something the size of a bb.
Thirty-one, thirty-two, The perfect salad has forty leaves. I swish my hand through the basil rows, scan for ample leaves.
"Mom," she says, "I love you. But I'm not gonna let this one go."
Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, I feel a dribble of sweat slide down my neck.
"What if I caught TWO at a time?" she says. "EW, it kinda tickles when they walk." Encased in cupped hands, ceiling becomes floor and floor ceiling, as she squirms against the tickling bug.
Forty. I stand straight, press a hand to the small of my back.
"I maybe will call my ladybug DAVID," she says.
I lace a few cucumber vines up the trellis, snap off two baby cucumbers, and slide through the heat back inside. Myra follows like a bell on my ankle.
I chop the cucumbers, mince the basil, try to preserve a small radius of elbow room while children lean up over countertops to watch.
"Jack, you can be the ladybug's grampa 'cause you're a boy," Myra says. "And ALL the girls can be grammas. And I can be the MOMMY." She presses her lips into an elongated mmmm when she says mommy.
"Okay," Lucy says.
The girls nod. I chop. Jack gives his grasshopper cage a rattle to make the critter jump. Between Myra's lilting and my chopping, an undercurrent emerges, a tip-tapping rhythm. Everyone takes a station, plays a part.
Soon a whole symphony lifts out of our very skin. Jack and Jane make pancakes. Myra and Lu help Joe orbit his stool into the perfect position. Joe takes himself potty -- twice -- and shouts his success. Jack washes the fresh eggs. Jane blends the batter. Lucy burps her dolly. And Myra all the while circles and chirps and chimes.
That undercurrent of rhythm, pleasure, we smile into each other's eyes.
5510. A dear college friend calls out of the blue. We visit like old times.
5511. A close friend decides to use the same writing curriculum. We compare notes. Excitement grows.
5512. A quilting magazine.
5513. America by Dinesh D'Souza.
5514. We roll out long hours of reading to line our afternoons.
5515. Friends invite us to a bbq. The sun sets before we finally head home.
5516. My mom throws a birthday party for Dad and Peter. And I feel it again, that same chiming rhythm of everyone doing their part. We crescendo in concentric circle of affirmation for Dad and Peter.
5517. Craig takes me on a date. We start with a squabble and then laugh it off, water off a duck's back. Small stepping stones of agreement, and irritation sheds like old skin.
5518. We eat dinner on the farm. The children pick raspberries and cherries and run with the wind through their hair. We leave after dusk.
5519. Craig works on his day off, but still the day laces up in a bbq out back, affection ever-present.
5520. Joe graduates to big-boy shorts, the kind he can pull up and down himself as nature calls.
5521. An alligator t-shirt.
5522. Almond croissant and coffee.
5523. Cerissa celebrates a birthday. Her friendship, bedrock and perfect, grows every year.
5524. We meet the cousins at Mike's Donuts. Everything converges in sugar bliss.
5525. I visit the doctor. Thirteen weeks pregnant, and we hear that tiny heartbeat. Joy laces through our family.
5526. I fix the memories of this summer in my heart like sapphires and rubies.