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the trains still run

They never taught us more than how to make things. They did not explain how to take pictures, or write stories, or record songs when the walls are falling down. What should you paint when the sky is falling? And yet, they taught us all we needed to know. As I have begun to understand over and over again, all art is political. All freedom is freedom. The trains still run. The cameras can still be loaded with fresh rolls of film that smell of plastic and possibility. If there is a pothole, at some point it gets filled. Sometimes it just takes a hell of a long time to happen.

The sun rises. Children trundle around in the snow, laughing, falling down and getting back up again. Yes, the news is unthinkable. Yes, the headlines are poisonous enough to make you throw things out the window. But there is still dinner to cook, and why not make it delicious? Why not crack an egg, or laugh wildly at nothing in particular?

There was a night, about eight years ago when I was told that the militia w…

balance (ring, ring)

We are baking tollhouse cookies for her class, late on a Thursday night. I am tired. I even forgot to buy the chocolate to snap into messy squares and then chop down to bits. N brings them, after I call her on her way home. The butter turns into the salt and egg, sugar and flour, a splash of vanilla I remember this time. I spread it thin across the bottom of a pan. This year they will be cut into squares.

E writes the names of her classmates on a fresh piece of paper, counting out loud on her fingers, her mouth twisting around as she makes sure.
"We need twenty four, plus more for Larissa and Jhanna." She announces at one point.
"You can't give them just one." I tell her. "At least two."
Her eyes grow big.
She smiles.
The kitchen smells warm and sweet.
The first batch comes out and I cut into them, measuring out thirty messy rectangles and sliding them onto a tray. N tastes one.
"Too salty." She tells me.
"They are supposed to be salty." I answer. "The balance of the salt is the key, it makes them taste sweeter."
She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
E tastes a corner of one.
"They are kind of salty, Pop." She says.
I taste a crumb. They are a bit too salty.
"Fucking Russian salt." I say, spreading the second batch across the pan.
"Don't worry, they will eat them." E tells me. "I promise."
N makes tea for both of us.
I rest my hand on her knee after the second batch is in the oven. We trade a few expressions an economy of words cannot describe.
"They are fine." She tells me, quietly.
I stare into the red cup.

E calls from her bed, she is ready to be tucked in.

We spend Saturday cleaning the house and cooking. E sets the children's table, the wind snapping through the windows knocking over her towers of paper cups more than once. And then all at once the doorbell is buzzing and guests arrive, a pile of coats growing on the bed, biscuits and fried chicken pumping out of the kitchen, mouths puckering from the homemade bread and butter pickles. And then doors slamming, children howling and running from room to room, the adults laughing in the kitchen as I make six or seven pizzas before the dough runs out.

The stove off, the tiny room cools and everyone is playing the ukeleles. I cannot find the tall thin candles I bought the other day, but N has short ones already prepared. This year, a pineapple upside-down cake is what E wanted. It was my favorite when I was her age, sweet and soggy and lemony, barely sour and best eaten cold the next day.

I shove the candles into the soft, wet center and hope they do not fall over before I make it to the living room.

The scooter is her favorite gift. It has a bell, and she rings it every time she passes it in the house. We go downstairs after Sunday breakfast. The helmet wobbles on her head. I give her some pointers, explain what a center of gravity is. She stares up at me, suddenly seeing the scooter as an object to admire, not something to conquer. I show her where to put her feet, explaining that her purple sneakers were designed just for scooters and skateboards, that she can just let them do all of the work. 

Twenty minutes later, she can ride cautiously. She rings the bell constantly, kicking twice, going too fast and then jumping off. She is laughing, smiling, her hands waving around like a little bird. 
"I am going to go down that way, all by myself ok?" She asks me.
I nod yes.
"And if I am ok, I will ring two times." She adds.
"But I can see if you are ok." I tell her.
"Mmm - just let me tell you I am ok." She presses.
I nod.
She rolls away and I am struck with that melodramatic, tv show pang. She can roll by herself. She is drifting away from me and this is how it needs to be. The sun is banging into my eyes, and I squint at her making her way down the driveway. The hair goes up on my arms. 
She stops and rings two times, gives me a thumbs up.
And then she starts to come back.


gina said…
As always, your post left me with a smile on my face and a lump in my throat. I'm right there with you. Very hard to let go, even if it is just a ride to the end of the street. But how lucky we are to have such sweet and independent kids, right? xo
Jane Waterhouse said…
Simple. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Jane

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