A daughter, running for the dining room register as the heat kicks on, perching atop the floor vents until her bare legs turn tiger-striped with indentations. We sit together, side-by-side, quiet. She asks me to count her freckles.
I say yes.
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
Barking to the Choir, by Gregory Boyle
Devotion, by Patti Smith
How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, by Joanna Faber
Other People We Married, by Emma Straub
Daily, Scout wants to touch the moon. He reaches for it, whimpers and pleas, grasps at the golden apple that cannot be claimed. Bee sings for him, I’ve been readin’ books of old, the legends and the myths, and he settles. Runs out to the sunroom for climbing, jumping, the world below his catwalk once again.
I love you, I call. YOLO, he warbles back.
Early this month, everyone but Bee catches Scout’s cold – the kind that lingers, makes it hard to sleep. We take turns napping, coughing in the sauna. Bee makes us all paper slippers and personalized lunches. My own: a plate of carrots, sweet peppers, a perfect clementine. Red wine sloshing around in a mug full of ice, later poured down the sink after she falls asleep.
Communion, in a strange sense.
All else the usual: putting words to a page, putting towels in the hamper. In preparation for an upcoming speech, I launder every last one of our spare sheets, corral the missing pillowcase pairs, fold complete sets into twine-wrapped packages for storing. Domestic hysteria, I’d thought it, but in truth, what I’d wanted to do with my speech all along was perhaps better accomplished with bedding: cleaned, sorted, tidied. Thread counts promising what words cannot.
I’ve marveled at this before, the everyday credence within our own walls. Small things to trust in – that the floorboards will again be in need of sweeping, the plants will beg of revival, the dust in want of a place to return.
This, too, from Madeleine L’Engle:
“There are still stars which move in ordered and beautiful rhythm. There are still people in this world who keep promises. Even little ones, like your cooking stew over your Bunsen burner… That’s enough to keep my heart optimistic, no matter how pessimistic my mind.”
Last week, a signing in Minneapolis. An older woman asks me to write an inscription to her best friend Joan, who has a bit of “a problem with them Hummels if you know what I mean.”
I laugh. Would you like it to say anything special?
“To stop savin’ the good skivvies,” she says. “Never know when the whole damn ride’s gonna end.”