I am sitting in the bathroom while my kids take a brief and low-volume afternoon bath, and I’m reading aloud Even More Parts: Idioms From Head to Toe by Tedd Arnold. It’s funny: my children are two years apart but have been such inseparable playmates (and squabble-mates) that I rarely think of their difference in age; in reading the book it’s obvious. Sophie understands idioms, or figures of speech, while Nels does not. In the sunlight of the bathroom, he sits rigidly in the cast-iron tub, his brown eyes wide and earnest from under the fall of his blonde hair as I read and display the illustrations for “I’ve lost my head”, “my heart was racing”, “I’m falling apart!”, etc. Sophie knows the meaning, or general gist of most, but not all. “Do you know what ‘tongue-tied’ means, Sophie?” I ask her. She explains, while Nels silently eyes the scenario as illustrated – a person alarmed and struggling prostrate, lassoed in several lengths of their own twisted tongue.
After the bath my son, his lower body encased in a sarong-like towel wrap, installs himself on my living room couch silently and pores through the book once more. After a while he asks, quietly, “Will you read to me again, Mama?” My children are so allowed to be their own persons and run their own lives it is increasingly rare they make requests of me that don’t involve food. I am suddenly glad I took the few minutes mid-day to read to them, so that I can more clearly hear the request to read yet again. My son had misbehaved in his preschool again this afternoon; without taking this time with him I would not see his gentle, introspective side.
A few minutes later and we visit the bike shop after hours to pick up Sophie’s now geared-down large bicycle. Terry, the shop owner, shows Sophie some tricks of mount and dismount in the parking lot. My daughter is wearing a too-large sundress over bare, browned shoulders, long athletic shorts and old black boots underneath as she manages the bike near-expertly. Her long hair is showing the first blonde sun-tangles of the season. After she and Terry negotiate the seat height, I pay my $5.36 and load the refurbished machine in the van; tomorrow we do our first run of Preacher’s Slough out in Montesano.