witnesses and companions

“Is Nels still having problems with being angry?” my friend R. asks me tonight as we watch the kids play. I feel a moment of deep, personal gratitude. One of the surprising benefits of moving back to the area has been the almost accidental acquisition of a handful of devoted, intelligent childfree friends – each one of them showing a genuine and consistent interest in my children. My children call them on the phone, ask for them by name from Ralph and I, know their workplaces and when they see them, hug them tenderly.

I’ve been a parent now for over seven years and I wouldn’t exactly call it grueling… but it’s been a heck of a lot of work that began years ago and has kept up – a road race, a long one, something I feel proud of. Having friends along side-by-side has made the adventure exciting and satisfied the very social part of my nature. I feel a fierce love in my foursome, my family; I feel honored by the friends who have shared their lives and their time with us.

This evening, having just arrived home from a roadtrip, we keep our supper simple. R. and the kids fold origami swans, contently working side by side. I roast orange cauliflower in the oven and squeeze a lemon to deglaze the pan of tender vegetables when they emerge from the oven. Ralph peels carrots and slices them on a plate; scoops a small dish of ranch dressing to set on the table. I saute garlic then toss in freshly cooked pasta, grated pepper, and grated cheeses.

The table is set, hands are washed. A casual meal followed by a trip out to ice cream and then, in the gloaming, a visit to my children’s favorite park. Sophie finds herself amongst a group of young men goofing off – in between bites of Chinese takeout these boys perform ostentatious jumps off the dry-docked boat sculpture and land in fantastic somersaults. Activities twentysomething males and a seven year old girl have in common. She is tall and almost queenly in a long summer dress, denim jacket, with two buns up high on her head, a flush in her cheeks and a precision in her steps along the narrow ridge of the boat’s hull. My daughter’s beauty is not experienced precisely as her physical presence – more by a correctness of health, vigor, and life she manifests.

At home, later, the kids bathe and I fold laundry, then tidy fabric in my sewing room. Tomorrow is the beginning of our week, which is mercifully less scheduled than many families I know. Nels off to his preschool, my daughter to a lunch date with her father. Myself with not quite enough time to myself, but I’m satisfied, for now.

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