We are travelling in the Jimmy, east on the rain-soaked little highway into Olympia, to the community college where Beeps takes their German class. Ralph quizzes our oldest child and they do some verb conjugation together; they are taking the class together two nights a week. Nels is cheerful as well; he is planning on hitting the Mario Odyssey demo at Target. He worked for, saved up for, and pre-ordered the game as soon as it was available; these last few weeks he has been reading up and watching videos and is quite the expert.

My children are still so incredibly demonstrative and sweet (I get to define the word “demonstrative” to one of them, today at lunch). Phoenix seeks me out and gently hugs me and kisses me every day first thing. Today they say, their voice muffled in my hair as they hold me close: “You smell good. Like a jellybean.” Interestingly Nels is a bit more standoffish than he has been as a child but please understand Nels’ “standoffish” is another child’s “wildly and intensely clingy”, as every day he hugs, kisses, asks brazenly for snuggles, holds my hand and kisses my face in public. I didn’t think I’d have children that were so lovely and kind to me and so touchy-feely, but I am not complaining at all.

Nels and I share a dish at the Thai restaurant while Ralph and Phoenix sit in on their test; sticky rice and golden sesame tofu and fragrant vegetables in a lemongrass and ginger reduction. Nels is absolutely the kindest and sweetest boy and he is a pleasure to spend time with. As night is falling outside I feel that inexplicable sense of panic; I have lived with it for more years than I can remember, I can’t remember a time I didn’t live with it. Today I manage through prayer and meditation and, instead of drugs or alcohol, the anesthetizing effects of a parlor room mystery on telly.

After finding Nels a demo at the local game shop – with an enthusiastic and sweet employee chatting through the experience – the drive home is cozy. We are loaded up with special and nutritious snacks for Phee’s class trip to Mt. St. Helens tomorrow, for Geology. My spirits have lifted just a bit; the thought of our home, my bed, our kitties waiting for us. And my son’s happy chatter, “I am so excited!” and “I am so happy!” he keeps telling us. Truly a gift, to know your child is well and happy, especially a gift in the dark evenings like this.