I remember twelve years ago when my mom shared a picture of an infant Cohen with some other women: "Just look at him," one lady said, "Pure potential." My mom told me about the story, and I still remember us marveling at the truth of it. Here are some moments that capture the fruition of what was once only potential: Sophie has never played soccer before. But Jane & Skye Penderwick (some favorite protagonists) played, so she gave it a shot. We showed up 10 minutes late (but still before the game-- win!) and she jogged over to her team. Within the first minute of being on the field, her face became an obstacle that blocked a powerful kick from her opponent. The players took a knee, I took a knee-- ready to bound onto the field like a crazed gazelle. No blood. Check. No tears. Check. I ran to her on the other side of the field as well, just to be sure (because I'm not quite sure how first-time-soccer moms are supposed to behave.) "You good?" I asked. "Yeah," she nodded. She worked so hard. She never gave up. She continued to be in the path of some mighty kicks, but she also had a few of her own. It was the second week in a row her team was slaughtered, but she walked off smiling. "I think we lost," she mused. Everett also had his first baseball game the next morning. He was in his uniform and wearing his baseball bag two hours before he needed to be ready. Jacob witnessed him anxiously wiggling his fingers as he walked into the garage, muttering to no one in particular: "I just can't believe it's my fawst ever game. I just can't believe it." He fielded the first hit and bounded from base to base with intensity and purpose. Cohen was a base coach, and he would conduct an intricately choreographed secret high-five/handshake with Everett each time he met him at third base. That's when I knew what it meant to have a melting heart. Mae recently discovered how to make a fruit salad. I had her help me a few weeks ago for her birthday party, and she has taken her new role as as a fruit salad aficionado quite seriously. She peels tiny clementines, dumps blueberries, and slices honey crispy apples with a butter knife. I have never seen a sense of accomplishment like when she delivered a bowl of sliced fruit to Cohen and his friends. Jacob snuck a few bites, but she warned him to "make sure there is enough for the boys!" Again and again throughout the weekend, Ellie navigated the roll of peace maker for her siblings-- giving up candy from a birthday goody bag, scooping ice cream for wailing five year olds, complimenting her other siblings after their games. She wrote us a letter the other day, "Thank you for playing with me," she wrote, and signed it, "your friend, Ellie." Tuesday afternoon, the house, per usual, was nearly ceaseless activity and noise. In the half hour between piano, soccer, and baseball-- Sophie slogged through fractions and spelling words, calling out every few seconds for computation confirmations, Cohen massacred the kitchen in an attempt to make a chocolate cake, Mae begged to help, and Everett was likely holed up in some corner sneaking time on an Ipad. In the midst all of this, Ellie found me and took my hand, holding up a book. "Can you read this to me?" she asked, holding up Ms. Rumphias. I hesitated. "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives," I told my sophomores the other day, as we discussed Tuesdays with Morrie. I took the book from Ellie, highly doubting the likelihood of getting all the way through it. Somehow, though, through a little bit of magic and all the prayers people pray for us-- we made it through the story. I focused on the words and my breath and the smell of Ellie's hair. Sophie stopped her fractions for a moment, and Cohen was quiet in the kitchen. I read the last few lines of the story: "You must do something to make the world more beautiful," "All right," I say. I do not know yet what that will be. "Why are you crying??" Sophie asked from her spot on the rocking chair. "I don't know-- you don't know yet," I faltered, "I don't yet... how we will get to make the world more beautiful. It's just such... such...." I recalled the photo of newborn Cohen. What beauty in infinite potential. If you're alive, you're still pure potential. -------- "Ready?" Jack asked. "Can you run?" Could she? A bobolink warbled the answer. "Yes," said Lydia, all hope and exhilaration. "Yes I can." And away the went, the three together, prancing, leaping, gamboling into the future. -Jeanne Birdsall "The Penderwicks At Last"