About a month ago, the kids and a friend spent some time playing in the snow on the hill across the street from our house. After quickly discovering that the slushy powder was useless for sledding, they realized it was just about perfect for fort-building, and proceeded to roll several giant snow-boulders together in odd formations. I sat there and watched them in a foldable lawn chair, shivering but glad to be away from the weekend laundry. The three older kids each began their own fort, hoping– I think– to eventually combine the formations into one large structure, but they tired before actually connecting them. The snowballs loomed tall for the next month, weeks after the snow had melted around them, our own little Stonehenge on the hill of Cimarron Drive. We would drive past them marveling at the mark we had left, until today when that mark was nearly gone. We were there— I would think as we drove past. And some other thoughts lingered out there on the edge of language, some thoughts that I couldn’t quite express.
And so a Stonehenge of words… to remind myself I’m here…
Cohen- now eleven, has started showering every morning before school. “Because hygiene” he says. Samples of Old Spice and Degree line the top of his dresser next to his collection of plastic baseball hats, trophies, and the small camel his uncle brought him from Egypt. He’s going through the annual jaunt of sleeping in his closet, feeling the safety of the three walls around him, Everett’s clothes shoved to the side, blankets piled high in a cozy nest. He watches Clone Wars with diligence and plays football with Everett almost as much- gently tackling him as they both bound across the living room carpet. He’s been saving diligently for a new pair of slippers, and recently made enough to buy a pair (size 8- 2 sizes too big so “I’ll grow into them”). He still refuses to eat nearly all types of meat and vegetables- but he’s trying to appease us by putting kale in sugar-stocked smoothies. He’ll eat buttered noodles and ice cream by the gallon, and no one can infuriate Sophie and Ellie like he can. His laughter can fill a room.
Sophie wears her patterned palazzo pants and “Yellow Submarine” t-shirt at least once a week and pumps out drawing after drawing of comic-like sketches. After starting a game of Risk (which we obviously wouldn’t finish), she discovered “Chad” was the name of a country in Africa and later wrote in her journal that this fact “had her in hysterics.” Before bed she must confirm that Jacob and I are still awake, and requests that we watch Parks & Rec because the theme song has become a make-shift lullaby for her. She’s fierce in basketball and has mastered the dribble-while-pushing-up-glasses maneuver. Often she prefaces her stories with, “Mama, I have three things to say about that,” and goes on to list the details in numerical order. Nothing is harder for her than practicing piano, but she finds chords that sound good together in a way that I never could. She’s always up for a game of Horse, school, or “writer’s club”– the latest fantasy game they’ve made up in which they spy on me and Jacob. (Or- as we’re known in the club- Lynette and Clifton.) [sophie is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- edit added by Soph]
Ellie turns 7 at the end of this week and has confirmed no less than 10 times that we must wake her before we leave for work to help her style her hair for “crazy hair day.” For two weeks she’s been frustrated at dance class, unable to master the “shuffle-ball-change-shuffle-flap” until recently when she discovered she can do them in circles around our island. She pumps out drawings as fast as Sophie, and our kitchen table is a near constant home for blank paper and markers. Like her siblings, she can throw down some pretty epic meltdowns; in a recent passionate outburst she spread every article of clothing she owns all over her bedroom floor. She is the quickest to help Everett and Mae when they struggle, and doesn’t mind playing all by herself on the “snow mountain” at the edge of the cul-de-sac. Her friend wrote her a letter that said “You have such a big heart.”
Mae somehow weasels her way into our bed without us noticing nearly every night. When inquiring about the time she asks “How time is it?” and still randomly puts “k” sounds in a variety of words. “Mommy- can I have some kassert?” This afternoon she danced to jingle-bell rock in the front hall. From my spot on the couch I could see her side-stepping back and forth in the foyer, entering and exiting my gaze like an actor crossing an unmoving camera. She loves to help with ANYTHING- her latest escapades have been fixing the bathroom wall with Jacob (in which she was rewarded with a paintcan-to-the nose, poor girl) and helping me make baked mac n’ cheese (fistfuls of parmesan and panko breadcrumbs in her mouth during that one.) She and Cam and Everett play “belly squat” at Grandma’s, a game in which they run shirtless around the house like barbarians. Every story is typically addressed to Everett, opening with an enthusiastic “Hey Look!”
Everett recently went through a bucket of misplaced game pieces, and upon finding three separate hourglass sand-timers, lined them all up in a row. He kneeled on the floor, eye-level with the timers, and chanted “Go geen, go geen.” “Geen is gonna win!!” When he doesn’t like dinner, he’ll bolt to the pantry to find an Oreo before any of us knows what is happening. He plays game after game after game after game, Uno, Bugs in Kitchen, baseball matching, Candyland– over and over again, sometimes electing to play against himself. At least the “cinnamon roll” (aka chocolate bonbon) card has been ripped to the point of no-return so we can no longer accuse anyone of cheating. He hates putting on chapstick and clipping his nails and shows us just how strong he can be when we try to get him to do either. His hand perches gently on my shoulder as I read to him, the warmth of it stretching to my heart.
Last weekend, walking from the grocery store to my car, three plastic bags dangling from my arm, the rest of my cart full to overflowing (“I have a lot,” I warned the man who got in line behind me at the checkout. He smiled kindly and said “You must have a lot of mouths to feed.”) Bright sun warmed the cold February air, the sky a palette of blue above me. After I finished loading everything into the trunk of the Expedition, I caught a young mother and father walking their toddler into the store. I could only see their backs, but I noticed both tilting their heads toward the sky, their arms pointed up in the same direction. I followed their gaze along with the child and found the tiny airplane in the sky.
I got into the front seat, slamming the car door behind me. People still stop, I said quietly to myself, releasing a breath I didn’t know I had been holding. They point to the sky and say look. They see something quite old as new because they know that is what we are here for.