I turned my subaru into our driveway this afternoon, all heart-full, happy, stinky, windblown. Six wonderful days on the road, camping with my kids, it felt GOOD to be home. Andy was standing on the second-story deck smiling down, all post-bike ride disheveled. The scratchy car stereo played I Love Mud for the 806th time, Margot shrieked and hurriedly unbuckled because she saw our neighbor. Ruby had just fallen asleep.
“Phoebe! I’m home!” Margot yelled as she tumbled from the still-rolling car.
A long, dramatic embrace ensued. The kind afforded by single digit youth, when any amount of time longer than one hour might as well seal a different fate all together.
I wrestled enough bags upstairs to feel unlazy; I did my best to avoid any immediate return to the vehicle. I can delay unloading, unpacking like a champion. Actually, what I grabbed was my purse and my garage sale scores. Because, after 16 years with my foxy dude, I still show him my vintage jars, funky handmade wood boxes and embroidered linens like it’s his dream snow forecast. And he smiles like he truly gives a shit, staring at me in *that* way that he stares when we’ve been apart for six days or six hours.
Margot reminded and REreminded me that our other neighbor’s birthday party started in 20 minutes. She was jumping. All car doors open in the driveway, several objects lounging on asphalt. I plopped Ruby in bed, wrapped a gift and sent Margot with Phoebe and her mom to Gillian’s bowling party.
Andy and I uninterestedly talked about dinner in between real talk as cicadas began tuning their instruments. Alice shook her whole body into me grunting like a pig in a compost pile. I laid on the floor with her, especially noticing her soft silver cheeks. The cats joined in, vibrating and shedding and kneading into me. Chickens chirped on the deck. I learned all the new hens are now laying tiny, perfect, blue eggs.
I love my home.
Andy and Ruby went to fetch Margot and Phoebe from the birthday party while I sat idly and thought about dinner or unpacking or checking email/voicemail. A knock at the door. It was Cecil, my next-door neighbor. The guy who knows ALL about ancient rocks, fruit trees and berry foraging. He’s a mystery to me, like an onion. I thoroughly enjoy every single encounter for he is kind and generous and also quite mischievious and badass, always revealing nuggets of wisdom, strength and curiosity.
Today he brought me a bag of just-picked blackberries, swollen and midnight delicious. That was gift enough but the thing with Cecil is that there ALWAYS a great story. So I waited. I asked him about his day. And he asks me if I’ve heard about that kidnapping of that California girl. I had, barely, sadly.
“Well,” he continues. “I was at my blackberry pickin’ spot by Kooskia. I coulda picked 20 gallons a blackberries. There was that many. All huge and black just how you want to pick ’em. And I heard a BOOM and I thought yep, that’s definitely a gun shot. And then I heard six more. They were close. And I decided I was done pickin’ today. So then I come home and turn on the news and see that I was just right there where they shot that man. Right there. So glad that girl’s alright. You just never know. Sure glad to live where we live. Anyway, the ones that are all black are the best eatin’. The ones with the red edges are best for jammin’.”
“Unless a’ course you like bitter berries, which I do a lot.”
The kids came home in a sugar summer spun spin, grabbing blackberries by the fistful before joining the neighbor kids in the field for games of family and kick the pinecone before coming back for more blackberries, tripping over rogue camping gear in the kitchen, playing spontaneously constructed ballet-musicals. Dinner came together as it does. Like always, later than we’d (loosely) planned. We gathered around our table, cicadas in full song now. Andy plated just-picked food, Margot grabbed water, Ruby emerged with a proud fork bouquet and a lone tomato she ate like an apple, I smoothed the oilcloth on the outdoor table.