"Did you put that in there?" I give the dulcimer an upside-down shake. Something blue slides past the opening.
"Yeah," Joe says. I shake it again. Something blue and pink this time blips over the hole.
"Was it kind of hard to push it in?"
"Oh." I give it another rattle-shake, poke at the smooth edge of something pink that glides away from my finger. The pick. "I don't think I can get it out," I say.
I hand the instrument back into Joe's arms. He plucks a string, pinches and stretches it a quarter inch past what a normal person would. It twangs, glittery out of tune.
"I can play it with my hands now," he triumphs. He demonstrates another twang. I gulp down the plate of eggs Lucy had left on the toaster for me.
Then we scatter through the house. Sunday morning, choir practice today.
We redress Myra, twice, a complete makeover from her favorite hand-me-downs. We shorten the sleeves on Lucy's shirt with a couple of well-placed cuffs. Joey tries repeatedly to suit up in rain boots before pants or underwear. I shuffle through stacks of laundry yank socks off Myra and onto Joe.
"That's weird," Lu says. I look up to her beached on a pile of Myra's clothes, a blue snappie barrette in her fingers. "Look what I found," she says, dulcimer at the crook of her arm.
"Huh," I say and snuffle Joe's foot down into the rain boot, "let's go!"
We gallop out the door.
I slide into a pew out of breath. Joe wets his pants. I count my blessings that he was standing, not sitting in a pew. We sog out to the restroom.
The morning gently lands, me in the parking lot with Joe, Craig and the big kids at choir practice. and I suddenly remember the barrette. It would have been perfect for Lucy's hair. A fleeting memory of me shrugging it into a pocket, perfect. I reach in and feel it next to two tylenol, a crochet hook, and some miscellaneous yarn.
Perfect, all the spare parts.
5555. Mom finishes crocheting the new baby's blankie.
5556. Craig and I plan an impromptu quilt with poppies and gray.
5557. Basil sausage tomato soup.
5558. Joe fixes a plastic gun with a safety pin. It disappears into the rattly shell never to be seen again.
5559. We have dinner with Craig's family.
5560. Mom and her sister decorate Grampa's house for Christmas.
5561. I drop in to visit Dad while Mom is away. We talk like old times.
5562. We win a jar of a friend's famous homemade marinara sauce.
5563. We spend the evenings warm and snug by the fire listening to audio books. Christmas feels most present when we are together.