It is only an hour time difference but it feels like the moon is tugging against the sun, a force that keeps me in bed. I am tired but I am wide awake. I get up.
Andy is up next. We sit across the living room from each other with our coffee. Sunlight creates a sharp warmth across the billions of pet hairs on the floor. We talk in the quiet, about big and little stuff. About how to be there for a friend in crisis, about planting spinach, money, chicken run expansion, our disagreement last night, skiing. Our pets vie for our attention. The sun spills across the entire room now. The kids wake up and nudge our thoughts into present tense.
Mom, make your hippie pancakes!
Blond bed heads, nightgowns, bare feet, bruised shins.
Margot immediately, furiously pens the book she’s been working on. It is called The Poor but Happy Village. She takes a break from that story line to spend some time copying several books for practice. I think about how we’ve been informed that she is reading “below benchmark” and decided, again, not to think another thing of it.
Ruby rolls with the cats, the dog. She gathers her army of stuffed animals and dolls, each with their own bling. Every critter wears carefully curated bits of fabric from my scrap pile. Safety pinned to the cheek, tied around the wrist, wrapped around the belly, draped over the ear. Their names are Horsey, Bluey, Hooty Owl, Makeup, Oil, Frogy and Zara.
Loud music, lots of helping hands in the kitchen, spilled water, dog poop on the rug.
I take Mabel outside, in my bathrobe, coffee in hand. I can see my breath but the sun whispers SPRING.
We will go skiing, as we do every weekend. Andy and I load the crusty old green bin with dry mittens, helmets, goggles as the kids protest, saying they want to hula hoop instead. We fill a backpack with quesadillas, carrots, apples and chocolate blueberries. We make a thermos of tea. Get ready buddies, Andy says to the kids every two minutes in response to whines. They get ready.
Ruby, I am pretty sure those leggings are cotton. You might want to change.
Margot, how many layers are you wearing today? I think I will just wear one slippery shirt because the sun will feel so warm.
We leave the house a mess and drive our filthy car up to the ski hill. Our church. A cloud of dust rises behind us as we climb closer to the snow line. Her socks are bunchy and hot and weird and so uncomfortable! Tears over the socks. I unbuckle and contort my torso around the beige seat that is marked up from Alice’s once-muddy paws. Our car dings incessantly to remind me I’m unbuckled, Ruby holds her breath in sock anger. We bounce through muddy potholes up the mountainside. I fix the socks.
Giant crack straight up the middle of the windshield, puppy on my lap, NPR humming on the radio, windows down.
The kids still ask for a boost onto the chair but their growing limbs don’t need it anymore. This is the first year I don’t keep a firm grip the back of their ski coats as we ride up.
The old chair creeps higher and higher, thoughts spill out.
Mama what if this whole mountain was made of food and you could just take a bite of snow and it was suddenly peanut butter?
That crow is flying right by my face. She is staring at me.
Mama I wonder what it feels like to be a cat or dog. Do you think it feels a lot different? Probly hard to not talk. Probly weird to have four legs. Probly awesome to run so fast.
They love the trees, jumps, going fast. Ruby sings the whole time. Sometimes she makes pirate AARGHs. Margot laughs. Andy and I stand at the top of a steep slope and watch our offspring fly away. He says wow look at them go. I will never forget dreaming of this exact day when I nursed a newborn in cool, sleepy January light.
We hit the grocery store on the way home, for coffee and spinach. Margot brings her book inside. She doesn’t look up once. Ruby is hungry for the fifth time that hour.
We make pizza for dinner. The kids pick out their clothes for tomorrow. They are tired and quiet. They hear our neighbors playing outside and are suddenly infused with adrenaline. They squeal and run down the hallway, still in ski clothes. They slam into the front door and fling it open, grabbing hula hoops, shouting as they run away, Tell us when dinner is ready!
A glass of wine, punching dough, muffled girl giggles, hungry pets.
My friend’s mom died this morning. I call my mom. I can’t stop thinking about my mom. Ruby was with me when we visited two days ago. She watched me lift my friend’s mom onto her bed with hospice staff while my friend administered a syringe of morphine saying, It’s ok mom. Open up little bird.
I burn the pizza. We eat it anyway. At the dinner table Ruby asks if we can do thankfuls but she doesn’t want to go first.
Margot: I am thankful for the things we don’t have to worry about like they have to worry about in Little House. Like kerosene, warmth, food, school, coal, my home, family and wood. Those are the most important things.
Ruby: I am having a hard time thinking of a thankful because my brain is thinking about Olive, Alice and our friend’s mom and how they all died.
Andy: Take your time buddy. I’ll go. I am thankful for the sun.
Margot: Oh and I am thankful for skiing, playing with my friends and also the suuuuuuuuun!
Ruby: I am ready. I am thankful for our cats, chickens and puppy. Mama, how about you?
Me: I am thankful to be sitting at this table with you chickens right now.
Margot: Mooooom. You almost always say you are thankful for us. Pick something that happened earlier today.
Me: Fair enough. I am thankful for the conversations with you two on the chairlift.
Margot: Knock knock!
Orange you glad I didn’t say…oh wait. Oops.
We never want to clean up after dinner. We often don’t do it. I dislike waking to dinner dishes more than I dislike cleaning up but it still happens often. Tonight we clean up while the kids take a bath. He scrubs a pan, I wipe the table clean. We talk about the week ahead. He turns 37 on Friday. I like him so much.
We hear a scream and another. One sister pinched the other. She hit back. We hollar for them to try to sort it out without pinching or hitting. They do. It was about a bouncy ball wrapped in a scarf and how to best secure the tiny rubber flamingo to the scarf’s end.
I climb into my bed with my daughters to read Little House, as we have done nearly every single night for a year. They play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to be on the “light side” – the side of the bed by the light. Some time ago they decided the light side was the best side. We are almost finished with The Long Winter. We are all gripped by the story. We read and pause often to imagine the darkness and hunger and boredom. We read and pause often to readjust covers, scratch backs, locate the bouncy ball-flamingo-scarf and talk about our plans to visit the Little House sites on a road trip this fall.
Wiggly legs, the soft way they say mama, clean sheets, trying to shelve tomorrow’s to-do list that keeps running through my brain.
Ruby falls asleep just a few pages in. She always does. Margot doesn’t want me to stop reading when it’s time. She never does. I lay there with two, heavy-breathing girls, their bodies the exact shapes of my contours and think about getting up but fall asleep instead. I always do.
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Tell me, what is your thankful?