House of Joy

She had always wanted a little yellow house with white trim, something small, less than fifteen-hundred square feet. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice big open kitchen and living room set up. Simple. Tiny. Perfect. And yellow with white trim so that every time she came home she’d smile and be happy.

The first house she bought was half of a duplex. With a shared wall she couldn’t very well paint her half of the house yellow with white trim, not when the entire house was currently the same color: brown, with beige trim. Ugh. It was so plain. So boring. So suburban. But it was tiny, just under sixteen-hundred square feet. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a teeny tiny kitchen and small living room. Not quite perfect. But it had a yard.

A beautiful front yard where she planted a fig tree and put up a pergola to take the evening air and watch her neighbors as they walked their dogs. A beautiful backyard where she put in some fruit trees along the outside edge, created a little patio out of flagstones against the back of the house, and ensured there was a little space where she could have a small flock of hens. Four. Four perfect little feather butts waddling around her new yard.

She’d spend her weekends fixing up this, that, or the other. It was her first house and therefore very cheap, and needed lots of work. She’d slowly earn up the money and the knowledge to install new cabinets in the kitchen, a new shower surround in the bathroom, new ceiling fans in the bedrooms. It was a good project house that would supply mighty returns later down the road.

After a few years she’d built enough equity in the home that she could take out a loan, rent out the half-house and purchase a new house for herself. Which is exactly what she did. She found a stand alone house, no more wall sharing for her, and this time she got just over fifteen-hundred square feet, two bedrooms, two baths, a decent sized kitchen and decent sized living room. The yard was miniscule, even for suburban standards, and she quickly realized she’d need to re-home her flock.

She very quickly began missing her chickens and realized this house was also not the home she’d been dreaming of. So rather than paint it yellow with white trim, which would have looked okay but perhaps not quite right for it’s character, she painted it a greenish-grey with burnt red trim. It looked rather festive at Christmas and the rest of the time it just looked stoic. Which suited her just fine. It was rather how she felt without her flock.

It was her second house and in much better repair than her first, but still required a bit of TLC as she had the time, knowledge, and extra money. She put in a new air conditioning unit, a new garbage disposal, and a new garage door. She made what little front yard there was into a lovely native plant bed which attracted the humming birds and bees, and she took what little backyard existed and added a small bistro table and two chairs. There’d be no fruit trees here, but she found a bougainvillea could grow beautifully against the retaining wall making it look much less sterile and institutional. It was a rather lovely little spot to escape for a coffee.

After a few years she’d once again amassed enough equity in the home that she could take out another loan, rent out the Christmas house, and purchase a new house for herself. Which she did. She found a stand alone house with a lovely yard, just under fifteen-hundred square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fabulously open kitchen and living room combo, the house of her dreams.

She quickly went to work painting the outside a cheery yellow with crisp white trim. And it did indeed make her smile every time she arrived home. Once again, she created a little patio in the back with some flagstones, planted some fruit trees along the perimeter, and brought home a new flock of hens. Their fluffy butts strutting around in the yard immediately brought her a sense of peace as well as much laughter. Listening to them bok-bok back and forth, watching them race after one another when they suspected one of them had something the others could steal, collecting their delicious still-warm eggs each morning before breakfast.

The front yard, too, was utilized much in the fashion of her Christmas house, with a native plant garden and a small Japanese Maple tree that she just knew would look beautiful against the yellow and white house in the fall. And since she’d always loved the sound of running water and the local bees needed a watering hole, she also put in a small flowing fountain with lots of rocks she’d collected over the years filling the basin so the bees could drink without drowning, and to keep the mosquitoes from breeding in it.

The inside of the house needed very little but by now she felt confident this was the last house she’d ever buy. So she started making it her home. Rather than tearing out old carpet and installing new, she tore out the old carpet and put in hardwood floors. They were stunningly beautiful, with their honeyed shine and they gave the inside of the home some character it had otherwise been lacking. Her next big project was to add built-in’s. She’d always wanted a library and while the house wasn’t large enough to support one, creating built-in shelves along one wall of the living room allowed her to display books as well as lamps, photos, and various little tchotchkes she’d amassed along the years. She stained the wood a bit darker than she normally would have thought would look good, but she wanted the shelves to stand apart from the wood floors, and it turned out to be a stunning decision.

As the years went by the house gained as much character on the inside as it displayed on the outside. She found the house made her smile and brought her joy whether she could see the yellow paint with white trim or not. At night as she sipped her hot tea in the backyard right before bed, listening to the chickens in their coop rustling here and there and cooing a bit, she found there was absolutely nothing missing from her life. And she began to wonder if perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing after all.

Was it good to live a life where one wanted nothing? Was it healthy to have no goals to strive for? Shouldn’t she be a bit lonely, a single woman in a home with only her chickens? Perhaps she only thought she was happy because of all she’d achieved: two rentals to help her in her later retirement, a home for the rest of her life, the sense of achievement one only gets by learning and doing on ones own. She resolved to see a therapist to make sure she wasn’t in fact a bit crazy.

Her first attempt at therapy was a disappointment. The therapist clearly thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with her and couldn’t fathom why she was there. The second attempt went a bit better until the third sessions when, once again, the new therapist told her she didn’t appear to have anything that needed sorting out. Who were these quacks anyway? Couldn’t they see there must be something wrong with her? What kind of woman can live happily alone? Sheesh.

The third therapist, this one a male, told her he felt most sincerely there was something the matter with her, perhaps stemming from her early childhood, perhaps something to do with her father. “It’s not natural to want to live without a man by your side,” he told her in no uncertain terms.

Finally,” she thought, “someone who will discover what’s wrong with me.”

After seeing this new therapist once a week for three months it became quite clear that not only was she hostile towards men she also had a severe case of Androphobia, meaning she was afraid of men. “I’m so glad you found me when you did, so I can help you through this,” her therapist told her.

She was too afraid to tell him she didn’t want his help, that she could do it on her own. She was afraid that was her phobia talking. She struggled with leaving the office, but decided it had taken her three therapists to find one who discovered her problem, she wasn’t going to quit now. So she continued therapy every week, for many months.

After a year her therapist claimed she was better now. “You’ll find that you’re perfectly suited to find yourself a partner now. After all, you don’t want to live alone and you no longer fear men, right?”

She nodded gamely, and told herself she believed what he’d said, but inside she didn’t much relish the idea of bringing a man into her house of joy. What would he change? How would he change her? What if he didn’t like chickens? But that was the Androphobia talking, she’d learned how to recognize it thanks to the therapist.

That very night she made a plan to visit the local singles dating office in town and see if she couldn’t find someone to share her house with. She started putting together a little blurb about herself as well as a little blurb about the man she was looking for. She found she was able to describe herself well enough, she didn’t give in much to vanity and knew exactly what she looked like and what sort of introverted personality she had. But when it came to describing the man she was looking for it was a blank. Her description read more like an advertisement for a roommate than a lover. Perhaps the singles office would be able to help with that bit tomorrow.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Full-Time

“Let’s do it!” she cried, clapping her hands and holding them in front of her chest like a little girl. Her enthusiasm was so genuine it was contagious.

“Really? You sure you could do that?” he asked, wondering if this was just another one of her crazy ideas…she had them a lot and usually gave them up after a week or less of in depth research. She always did research.

“Yes! I’ve been researching it and not only is it way more common that people think, it’s easy to do it for just a year if you decide it’s not your bag. We buy something used, so we’re not out a ton of money if it turns out it’s not for us, and in the meantime we begin downsizing, seriously, don’t give me that look, and then we put together our timeline. Ideally we want to be ready to launch in six months or so but it all depends on how long it takes to sell the house and…”

“You’re serious,” he cut her off, clearly a bit flustered. Usually she brought these ideas up early before they’d really been simmering in her mind for awhile, before she’d already started any research. He knew she’d been watching that RV show but didn’t realize it had gotten any further than that.

“Yes, I’m serious. I’ve been watching that RV show and it set me to thinking about it so then I started looking into it online, just when I had five minutes here or there, but I’ve ordered this book by this woman who did it with her family and they absolutely love it and she says the book has literally everything you need to know with links to stuff for more info. But before it even gets here and we read it…”

“We?” he interrupted again, his face a twisted smirk, she always said we but usually meant she and then if it passed her perusal he’d get brought in.

“Yeah, okay, okay, well we if you want to read it, too, after I’m done. But before we even get to that I figured we should sit down and really talk it out and see if it’s even something you’d seriously do. I mean I know you said you thought it sounded great when you watched one of those episodes with me, but then we haven’t talked about it since then so I wasn’t sure if you meant ‘it sounds great for those weirdos,’ or ‘it sounds great, I wish we could do it.'” She stopped and looked at him with wide eyes and a giant grin. She’d put her hands under her thighs to hold them down. This was her classic “I’m super excited but trying to stay calm” pose.

He sighed and said, “well, I think it sounds wonderful. I think it’d be amazing to see the whole US, I mean, I’ve always wanted to go to Maine…”

“Me, too!” she blurted before clapping a hand over her mouth.

Letting out a short huff of laughter he continued, “and other places, but what about money?” They didn’t have any savings to speak of, the minimum extra three months in case one of them lost their job or had a serious injury, but that was it.

“We’d have whatever money is in our savings and whatever money we made selling the house and all the stuff we don’t really care about paying to store, which if you ask me is everything but I know you don’t feel the same way. That money would help pay for our rig and the places we stay for the year and the gas and insurance and the food and stuff. The problem is we gotta see how much we can make off of everything so we know how long we can be out on the road. But also there are other options and the book is supposed to talk about them but apparently you can do things like work camp or take a ranger position part-time and stuff like that. So we can go about this two ways: one, try to figure out how much we think we’ll need for the year for gas, food, camping, insurance, and the unexpecteds and two, start selling stuff off and keeping track of how much we have saved. We need the numbers to be at least somewhere close, ball park close, and preferably the number two should be bigger than the number one.”

“Wait, so we’re selling our vehicles and everything?” he asked, a little surprised, “I thought we’d keep one for when we got back?”

“Well, it depends. If we get a rig that’s got a motor and wheels like a Class A, B, or C, then we’ll need a tow car to go visit the sights. But if we get a rig that’s a trailer then we need to sell both vehicles so we can buy the right towing truck.”

“Ah. I remember that in that episode I watched with you. Makes sense. Well, what about your family?” he asked, “you spend a lot of time with them. You gonna be okay away for a whole year?”

“Absolutely.”

“Uh huh,” his raised eyebrows and gentle smile said he didn’t believe it for a second, there was no way she could be away from her family for a year. He’d put money on them coming back for a visit or the family flying out to whatever cool spot they happened to be in.

“No, really, it’ll be fine. In fact, my family will probably come out and visit us depending on where we go. Plus, we’re mobile! We can always come back for the major holidays if we need to.”

“Okay. Maybe. It is just one year. What about our jobs?”

“Excellent question! I hate mine and you hate yours. Problems solved. We quit. Hooray!” she cheered.

“So we quit our jobs with no income, sell our home and buy a rig to live in for a year and spend all our money on living for that one year, am I right so far?” she nodded and gave a so-so back and forth “mostly” wiggle of her hand so he continued, “after that one year we decide we hate it and we come back here. We have no jobs, we haven’t worked for a year, we have no home except our rig. We live in your parents backyard?”

“Ah! I see your concern. Valid but incorrect. After one year we love it and decide to full-time forever!” she began gnashing her teeth with relish, “just kidding! Okay, so yes, it is totally possible we will hate it and be desperate for the year to end. If that’s the case as the year-end approaches we begin looking for work from wherever we are. We use the internet to look for jobs. And who knows if we’ll even want to come back here. By then we may have fallen in love with Maine. You never know.”

“I like the idea of that,” he said, stopping for a minute and half-closing his eyes as though he was picturing it on his eyelids. “That makes sense, we can search for jobs online from Maine in any state just as easily as we can search for jobs online from where we are now in any state. And if we can’t find legit jobs we at least have a roof over our heads while we work at the gas station to pay for our food. Totally doable. Alright, now, when it comes to downsizing, just how far down do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I’ll be honest, I have no idea. That’s just the thing that show is always saying over and over again ‘storage, storage, storage,’ so clearly storage is in high demand and short supply. I suspect we’ll need to eliminate seventy-five percent of our clothes? I dunno, maybe more? And probably ninety percent of the kitchen? And I’d guess, like ninety-nine percent of our decorations?”

“Decorations?” he asked, looking around, they had practically nothing on the walls except pictures.

“You know, pictures hanging on the walls or sitting on shelves,” she gestured vaguely to the whole house.

“Oh no, I’ve got it. I know why this won’t work,” he said, looking at her playfully, “books.”

She hung her head and groaned. He was absolutely right. They both loved to read, had more books than some libraries, and she was the worst offender, never wanting to get rid of the books she read that she loved and not willing to give up the books she hadn’t read yet that she’d bought cause she just knew she was going to love them. Putting her chin in her hand she said, “I don’t even know…where am I going to start? My first thought was I’d just put them all in storage, but I can’t. Books shouldn’t go into boxes for more than a week, like as a wrapped gift to someone else. So then I thought I’m just gonna have to sell them all, but…so much sadness right there.” Her enthusiasm had been properly doused.

“Well, you do have a Kindle, and I know, I know, I know, it’s not the same as holding a book in your hand, but, you could use the kindle for the books that would take up a bunch of space, and then you could bring like five or ten actual books that are normal size books and then you could drop them as we go at Little Free Libraries or local library bookstores and then you could pick one up each time you drop one?” he offered.

“You. Are. Brilliant.” She sat back with a giant smile, criss-crossing her legs under her and pumping her knees up and down, the wind back in her sails. “I could do that. I could find a few that I just can’t part with right now, and the rest we can sell online or at a garage sale, and anything else that doesn’t sell, if we absolutely don’t have room for it, I can take it to our local library bookstore before we leave. Plus, I have at least six months to read as many as I can before that anyway, so,” she sighed, “whew, I can totally do this.”

“What else?” he asked.

“I don’t know yet. You?”

“I don’t know yet.”

They both sat in silence for a minute looking at their hands, thinking their own thoughts. Buoyed by their love for each other and this adventure growing before them. They smiled and looked at each other at the same time.

“We’re really going to do this?” she asked.

“‘You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take,'” he quoted.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

True Grit II

This is part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

A Few Months Later…

The buying of materials and building of the fort had all gone swimmingly. He couldn’t have asked for a more incredible pair of kids. They took to everything like they’d been doing it all their lives, which they had. At six and nine years old they’d already built their fair share of bird houses, bat boxes, owl boxes, jewelry boxes for their mother…who was never coming back. Like the dog.

He shook himself. He had to stop doing that.

At any rate, he didn’t get it. They’d built the fort together with no problems, even painted the damn thing. They’d gotten along so well for months, and they were finally sleeping better too. No longer all crowded into the king bed, the boys had slowly made their way back to their own beds. Claiming, “dad, you just snore so loud.”

What had gone wrong? Why were the boys causing trouble now? Hadn’t they had their fair share of rough? Hadn’t they finally settled it all out? He heaved his shoulders a few times, and took some deep breaths. He had good kids, he just had to keep that in mind. Don’t automatically assume they were in the wrong. He went inside where the boys had been told to wait for him, it had seemed best considering the circumstances to keep them on the linoleum. He crossed over to where they sat, muddy, possibly bloody, it looked like bright blood, maybe paint? Jesus, these kids.

“Can you tell me, without all talking all at once, exactly what happened?” he asked as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

The boys looked at each other, and in that way they had, that way that made him grateful they weren’t twins cause surely then it’d be much worse, way creepier, they conversed with one another using their eyes. When they’d made a decision they both turned back to him and the younger one dropped his eyes while the older one began:

They’d been at the fort, like every day since they’d started working on it and every day since they’d finished it. Today they’d brought a bottle of ketchup (“sorry, dad,” interrupted the youngest, earning him a glare from the eldest who continued), so it they could have “real blood” and they’d been playing cowboy movie. They were taking turn being John Wayne cause he was their favorite, and they were taking turns being the bad guy cause they also each wanted to get bloody. But then they ran out of ketchup so they decided to use mud, only they didn’t have any mud, so they had to get water so they could make mud. It was such a long way back to the house but it was just a short jaunt down to the creek…

“What’s the rule about the creek?” he interrupted, glaring at both boys, his face stony.

“Never go to the creek without telling mom or dad,” both boys said without thinking, shoulders up to their ears and eyes downcast.

As soon as it came out of their mouths they froze. He froze.

She’d just been mentioned again.

He silently cursed. It was the first time the creek rule had been broken or even come up since she’d passed. Of course the boys would repeat the rule with “mom” in it. He sighed.

“Boys, she’s always gonna be with us. Even though she’ll never be here the way we want. It’s okay if she keeps coming up. It’s just gonna be hard for awhile, til we really get used to it…” he trailed off.

“When will we get used to it?” the eldest asked.

“Ah hell, boys,” he rubbed his face in his hands and looked back up at them, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. They say it happens though. Alright, alright, so you decided the creek was closer. Then what?”

“We had that bucket from when we were bringing supplies back and forth,” the youngest started but stopped when the eldest gave him a sideways kick to the foot. “Ouch!”

“I’ll tell it,” the eldest reminded before continuing:

They decided they’d take the bucket to the creek and the eldest would keep his feet out of the water while dipping the bucket in just enough to get a little water, as long as the eldest didn’t actually touch the water, they wouldn’t really be breaking the rules.

They’d both turned a deep red at this and looked up quickly to see if he bought their justification. When it was clear he didn’t they immediately looked back down and after a swallow of shame the eldest continued:

Everything was going perfectly according to plan, eldest out of the water, bucket filling with water, when the neighbor kids came running down their hill and saw the boys at the creek. After thinking the boys were bloody and then finding out they were just covered in ketchup the neighbor kids wanted to join in the game, too. All four boys agreed there was no need to get parents involved, the creek was low, the neighbors would just cross and they’d all go play…

“I oughta beat both your buts just for that,” he started before seeing their eyes go wide.

They’d agreed not to use corporal punishment before they’d even had kids. They’d agreed because they both knew it didn’t work. They’d agreed because neither one of them wanted their kids to live in fear of them. They’d agreed because they’d both grown up with that and hated it. But the boys still knew what a but beatin’ was, they’d read about it in some book or heard some other kid talk about it, and they’d definitely seen it in some movies. This was the first they’d ever been threatened with it though.

Grumbling to himself in an effort not to roar, why couldn’t he roar? He needed to let off steam here too. He took a deep breath and then motioned with his hand to the eldest to go on.

They neighbors crossed with just a small slip but it was no big deal, only the one boy got really wet and he swore he was fine, and they all ran back up to the fort and they were having a great time. They weren’t playing anything specific, they were just all cowboys and that was their fort and they’d take turns going out to check on the cattle or poke the fire for the beans…

“What?” he roared. There. He’d roared. And he did feel better. “You started a fire?”

A chorus of “no’s” ensued and from the furiously quick babble he came to understand it was a pretend fire, they’d just stacked up a bunch of branches in a ring of stones but no one actually had any matches so…

“So you couldn’t start a fire?” he asked.

“Right!” both boys said and looked at him with big smiles on their faces.

“But you would have if someone had matches?” he asked.

What followed was a whole lot of what sounded like spluttering and coughing and no-no-no-no followed by wide eyes that quickly looked back down again.

“What am I gonna,” he started then stopped. “Just try to tell me the rest guys.”

Everything was going great until the neighbor kids said they couldn’t be cowboys anymore. They had to be bad guys cause everyone knows bad guys don’t have moms and they didn’t have a mom anymore. That’s when…

“That’s when I hit em with a stick from the fire,” interrupted the youngest, tears running down his face.

“And I shoved em,” said the eldest, using his fist to wipe the tears off his own face.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

True Grit

This is the first part of a series. Refer to the Blog Index if you wish to read them in order.

The boys were watching entirely too much television. He knew this. It was his fault. He needed the break. They needed the break. Ever since their mom passed a little over a year ago (one year, two months, and six days, but who was counting), they just needed so much, so much. It was all he could do every day and sometimes it wasn’t enough. They’d all end up in front of the tv. But they all needed the break.

He’d had two choices: do everything himself, or do as much as he could and farm out the rest. The first three months he’d done nothing himself except care for the boys. He’d taken every single offer he’d received for meals and cleaning assistance. Every offer. He spent 24 hours a day with the boys and even though they all needed that time together, even though they all gained from the time together, it was rough.

There’d been so much shouting, about nothing, nothing! Just the grief needing an outlet. There’d been so much crying. And that was so much worse for him. The crying. Having to explain again and again that dead meant never coming back, “like that dog we had four years ago, you remember? He didn’t come back and he won’t ever come back.” All the tears. It’d gotten so by the end of the day, when the boys were finally asleep, he’d be so exhausted that he’d just lay there, unable to sleep but unable to move.

He’d started watching tv at night. Any spaghetti western that was on. Any one would do, any one except True Grit. That was her movie. She always said it was the only western that did any kind of justice to women and even that was only cause it was a girl. She said if they’d had the character be any older the movie would never have been made and would certainly never have become so popular. Men don’t like strong women, she’d said.

“I love you, and you’re strong,” he’d replied.

“You’re the exception to every rule, it’s why I married you,” she’d say and kiss him.

Occasionally he’d try to have some fun with her, arguing for the merits of this western or that.

“What about High Noon or McClintock?”

“Women were just background in those,” she’d argued.

“What about Big Jake, the wife ran the whole ranch without him?”

“Bah, she ran it into trouble that she couldn’t handle without a man.”

“Ha! What about Two Mules for Sister Sara? You cannot argue that Sara isn’t the strongest depiction of a woman,” he’d said.

“Okay, yes, but she only gets away with it because for the entirety of the film you think she’s a nun and therefore untouchable and therefor allowed to be independent because she’s actually still married to a man, even if that man is God,” she’d refuted.

Jesus, he couldn’t believe he missed arguing with her. Who misses arguing? But he did.

One night while he was zombied out in front of something, For a Few Dollars More if he remembered rightly, the youngest boy had wandered out and found him, something about a bad dream. Both boys were doing more of that these days. He’d let him stay and watch tv with him for awhile. When the movie was over he turned the tv off, picked up the now sleeping boy and carried him back to bed. He laid him down and started pulling the covers up over him.

“Stay with me,” the boy nearly whispered.

“Okay, buddy, okay.”

He laid down next to him, careful as could be not to rock the bunk bed too much and wake up the older boy. He stretched out meaning to lay there for just a little while til the boy fell asleep but ended up sleeping himself. It was the first real sleep he could remember getting since she died. And he was afraid of making it a habit.

The next night the youngest came out again, and again he let him stay. This time it was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Before it was near halfway through the older boy came out, too. The three of them watched it. Then all three went to bed. This time in dad’s bed. All three in a row in the king bed. Mom should have been the bookend on the other side, but she wasn’t coming back. Like the dog. He found himself telling himself that as much as the boys.

It quickly became a routine, their own way of coping, of defragmenting at the end of another day without mom. They’d make ready for bed but instead of going to their beds they’d head towards the couch and watch another western, whatever was playing, but not True Grit.

After those first three months he figured there wasn’t a western those boys hadn’t seen except True Grit, but he just wasn’t ready. And anyway it was about this time that the problems started. While he still received random offers for assistance, and mostly now only food, the offers were fewer and further between. He’d started taking up the slack. He created a schedule and gave the boys chores. The business he’d built had been running on its own for years and the three months he’d needed to be with the boys had shown him that he wasn’t really much more than a figurehead now. He officially retired. He now had the time and the ability to do all the things and be everywhere he needed to be.

He also needed a break.

The boys had always been homeschooled and he’d always thought they were better off that way. They were far too rambunctious and self-assured for a classroom that required constant sitting and no interruptions and questions held til the end. He found all the stuff his wife had kept about online class options and things and made an appointment with the local charter school to see about enrolling there for additional funding. In the meantime he told the boys to go build a fort.

They’d always wanted a fort or a treehouse, had always asked for one, and he hadn’t had the time, really he just didn’t think they’d use it for more than a week making it not worth the effort. They were old enough now at six and nine that they could build it themselves, he figured. They already knew how to use tools, he’d supervise all the cutting stuff, but they could do the rest on their own. It would be good for them. He announced his decision at breakfast the next morning.

“Boys it’s time you had a fort.”

“Like in the movies?” the youngest asked.

“Like a treehouse?” the eldest asked.

“Whichever you’d prefer. Draw out what you want and we’ll build it,” he said.

The drawing of the forts kept the boys busy for hours. He’d hardly expected that. They’d draw one fort and then want to make changes and start all over. Or they’d see what the other one was drawing and want to add to it. They started by drawing their own versions but by the time they brought him the finished product of what they wanted they’d been working together on one piece of paper. It astounded him.

“Now we gotta put in measurements and make a list of what we’ll need from the hardware store,” he said, “but that can wait until tomorrow. It’s time to make dinner.”

Dinner was a new routine with just the three of them. The youngest set the table. The eldest helped measuring ingredients and washing veggies. Dad did most of the cooking, occasionally letting the other two stir something or add something to the pot. He’d promised that at ten years old they’d be able to start handling the oven and stove bits as well, and now that it was something you could only do when you were older they both relished the idea of cooking.

Dishes were done as a team as well. The youngest cleared the table. The eldest pre-scrubbed the dishes. Dad and the youngest loaded the dishwasher. The youngest and oldest would unload the dry dishes in the morning while dad made coffee for himself and hot cocoa for them. It worked. It wasn’t the same. But it worked.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Thanks to my husband for supplying the names of westerns. I’ve seen tons of them but can never remember their names…except
True Grit and Two Mules for Sister Sara

Saving A Life

The plant was $12.99 a full three dollars over her limit on “extras,” but she’d been dreaming about this plant for weeks and finally found it and it seemed dangerous to ignore her dream. It didn’t look as healthy as she would have liked, especially not for three dollars more than her limit. Still, dreams were powerful things, who was she to begin to ignore them. She splurged and bought it.

Bringing it home she immediately transferred it from the cheap plastic pot it had been in to her favorite Mexican painted planter, adding fresh soil and watering it just enough. She angled the pot so the plant would catch light from the window, though not directly, and made a reminder in her phones calendar for a week out to turn it.

For weeks she watered, turned, and appreciated the plant. It’s location was prime for daily viewing. She watched as it appeared to thrive, losing a couple of leaves that hadn’t looked good at the nursery and growing in their place several stunningly beautiful leaves with lovely variegation. She hadn’t even realized there was a variegated variety to these plants, but apparently so, and she had one.

She’d taken a picture of it in the pot the day she brought it home and now made a point of taking a new picture once a month, also noted in her phone’s calendar as a reminder, although she didn’t really need the reminders. She looked forward to watering, turning, and photographing the plant and caught herself singing to it on several occasions. One morning she’d even said “good morning,” to the plant, not thinking, and yet somehow expecting an answer. “But that’s silly. This isn’t Little Shop of Horrors.”

It wasn’t long before she had a good dozen photos of the plant, just shy of one year actually, and she decided to find a way to put them together as a sort of slide show or time lapsed photography show. She didn’t know much about computers or techie stuff in general, but this seemed like something she should be able to figure out relatively easily. And it was. A Google search here, and another there for words she didn’t understand in the instructions from the original search, and voila.

She viewed the new video, though short, with pride. Marveled at how quickly the plant had grown, and decided that if her friends could share pictures and videos of their kids and dogs and cats online, that she could very well share the video of her plant. She shared it expecting at least a couple people to like it, the usual people: her mom and best friend. So she was surprised to note a few days later that the video had garnered more attention than anything she’d ever posted. She began to think the plant was more popular than she was.

She considered creating an account for the plant. That way all these people who seemed to adore it would have a place to follow it, and therefore she’d also be able to keep her own life a bit more private if it came to it. But it was just a plant. How many accounts could she create for it? What would a plant Tweet? You can only change pots and locations so many times before Instagrammers would be bored by the plant, surely. No, this was just a fluke and she’d leave very well enough alone.

After the “online incident,” as she now referred to it, she went back to her usual posts, nothing about the plant, and her likes went back to being the usual couple to few. She began to forget her watering and turning days, relying on the reminder in her phone. She noticed she no longer looked forward to picture day, but continued to do it with a bit of disdain.

By the time another year had nearly passed she realized she had a new set of photos to add to the video, but they told a much less pleasant story. In fact, reviewing the photos she realized the plant hardly looked like anything she’d be willing to pay $12.99 for. She’d stopped singing and speaking to the plant, and realized, perusing the photos, that she missed that interaction, even if it was a bit one-sided. The new photos were a disgrace, an embarrassment, and she nearly deleted them for the shame they wrought.

She finally decided, however, that it was better to confess to the near planticide that had occurred and promise to try her best to fix it and bring it back to life. She posted everything online so as to confer a sense of accountability to the project. She edited all her alarms to ring the day before in addition to the day of so she’d be sure not to forget. She taped a note to her bathroom mirror: “Talk to the plant,” and found herself getting ready for bed and taking a bee line through the house to say “good night” to the plant, or getting ready to leave in the morning and making her way to say “good morning,” before going on her way.

Her watering and turning routine became so engraved in her muscle memory, so habitual, that she once again found the alarms to be unnecessary and mostly annoying. Though she left them, more as a reminder to herself of what she’d done than as a reminder of what she needed to do.

As expected the plant came back, and it came back with a vengeance. It nearly doubled in size over the next six months and the variegations became tri-colored instead of bi-colored. She once again took intense pride in the plant, grateful for her three dollar splurge.

Despite her promise to her online community of posting photos of the plant, she found she never quite got around to it. Each month when she took the photo she’d spend a minute checking her feed or responding to comments, or dusting the leaves rather than share the picture she’d just taken. Not surprisingly, her community never asked for photos either. It was as though none of them had really cared to begin with, or maybe they forgot they were supposed to be holding her accountable. It seemed odd that the video that got so many hits should dissolve so completely into anonymity. She couldn’t remember why she’d been so upset by it in the first place.

By the end of their third year together, she and the plant had a lovely routine going, they seemed to look forward to their “good mornings” and their “good nights,” they both seemed eager for water and turn day and especially photo day. Their third year together and she’d brought the plant back to life twice, by her estimation, the first time by purchasing it from the store where it was clearly not perfectly happy, and then the second time, which true was by her own fault, but still, she counted it. Saving a life was saving a life after all.

~~~That’s one hour~~~