September in Three Acts
We are at the kitchen table, the central household meeting place; the work station; the setting where entire theatre companies of emotion are played out; the place where we gather, growing imperceptible hours older together. Rose is joyously reliving our unexpected arrival at the grocery store during Free Sample Bonanza! Col’s consciousness is layered inside the pages of an airplane magazine, likely erecting a force field around himself, in which female voices bounce promptly off. Dan has been gone eight days (five hours and twenty three minutes), not that anyone’s exactly counting.
Rose: We came at the ezact right time!
Col: (Showing me a glossy page of indistinguishable techno-parts) See Mom, this is an older engine, with pistons, before turbo props.
Rose: At free sample days, they never have vegetables. Have you noticed that? Except maybe those little carrots.
Col: Remember Mama, you were wondering about turbo props?
Breathe, just breathe. There is space for all of this.
Rose: They do have fruit, though…bananas dipped in vanilla pudding, and fruit rolls. Do those count as fruit? Not really, except maybe if that was the only fruit you could find. Right, Mama?
Somehow, the kids seem more themselves when I’m solo-parenting, or magnified, like their most selves. It’s due to some abstract law of physics, like, the fewer adults around to absorb and witness, the more heightened everyone’s personality becomes. It’s great because you get to really see them – it’s like being an anthropologist in your own family. When Rose informed me that Col had climbed into the dumpster at the farmers market last weekend, I was completely unrattled. “That’s so you. Now, can you please climb out?”
Dan comes stumbling home at dusk, after nine days in the woods, green facepaint still dabbed on his ear, a veneer of wild-living adhered to his very person; it becomes him. The kids rocket out of the house and launch themselves onto either hip. I stand there in the dimly lit yard, watching the people I love most, relief and desire flooding me.
“Where is it, Daddy?”
“Your ear is green, Daddy!”
Dan shot an elk with his homemade yew bow. “Holy lovin young fat dry cow,” was the precise text I received from 11,000 feet. (“Dry” refers to the cow not nursing). The next days were spent packing the animal out, one full-day, round-trip per load: four legs, two rib racks, hide, and goodie bag: heart, liver, backstraps and tenderloins. (Oh whoops, the tenderloins got devoured at camp, never to see a freezer, kitchen…or, wife).
My mom texted me sometime between Day 5 and 9: How’s Dan doing with all that packing out?
I texted back: I think he’s in heaven.
- Dan would never, ever brag, but here’s the details: he killed this elk at ten yards, one arrow, through the lungs, she ran 60 yards and dropped.
We spill outside into the rain-refreshed garden. The chickens flow through the yard like water. September shines. There is a chair placed permanently under our grape-vine, little legs climbing atop it, hands nabbing juicy purple clusters. Col is engaged in semi-supervised fire activities in our fire pit (meeting his current needs for autonomy, adventure, competence). I am nearby, planting garlic, admiring our compost-rich soil and pep-talking myself out of suggesting to Col that he build a nice, boy scout-approved fire, rather than striking match after sulfurous match. (And maybe wondering a bit what it would be like to have a 10-year old whose current needs were safety, collaboration and cooperation).
Col: Mama, what would happen if you lit a battery on fire?
Me: Google it.
Dan fleshes the elk hide in the back corner of the yard, cheerily greeting the magpies who swoop in for a scrap. Rose flits around, eating more grapes than a hyperphagic coon, visiting me at my garlic-planting station, visiting Col at his fire pit, following the chickens, but maybe steering clear of the hide emanating its particular stink.
The swiss chard glows in the sun. The tomato vines droop with the gravity of fruit. The 3-sisters patch is an unruly, promising jungle of food. Mornings hold a touch of winter’s chill, a tease that the day still shakes off easily. Sunset is now a calculated and finite thing, reminding me, in a helpful way, that nothing lasts forever, yet gratitude is ever harvestable.