I come home from the new job. It’s been an intense day. I’m still learning the ins and outs. I’m tired.
The phone rings. It’s my daughter.
“Mom, we’re celebrating. The local paper did a really neat article on David’s paintings. Come on over for dinner. David made Shepherd’s Pie.”
I almost decline the offer because I’ve brought some notes home to review for an early-morning meeting tomorrow. However, my growling stomach reminds me that this is an offer of free food – all gain, no pain – all I have to do is walk on up the hill.
Hunger wins out.
The girls are upstairs playing when I arrive. A stack of newspapers sits on David’s desk. I help myself to one and proudly note the photo and read the front-page article which really spotlights David’s new hobby. He’s become local hero for a day.
In this house, he’s always a hero. It takes courage to raise two kids and be totally involved in their care while traveling an hour away to teach drama, paint on the back porch, paint the front porch and storm door, and do a hundred and one other mundane duties. He paints; he teaches; he directs; he cooks a mean Shepherd’s Pie.
Sophie and Hannah come down for dinner. I almost feel like wallpaper. They are no longer running into my arms, surprised by my presence. In fact, they are running past my arms. I’ve been living up here for two months now. I’m a part of the family landscape. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. I tease Sophie about it. She reluctantly holds still for a kiss. But she does insist on sitting “next to Babci” for dinner. We discuss the origins of the main course and I tell her that my Babci was a shepherdess.
Dinner, which is often quite chaotic, is quite civilized tonight. David serves and the girls dig into their Shepherd’s Pie although Hannah decides that she doesn’t want the ground beef. She falls in love instead with the olives in the string-bean salad, while Sophie waits for the mashed potatoes to cool. There are “thank you Daddy” pleasantries and no one spills milk or ends up crying. David and Jenn actually get to sit and enjoy their food. David looks relaxed and pleased, as he should be. We toast his success with some red wine that has been waiting to be appreciated. The wine and David are both appreciated this night.
Hannah reveals that she did one of her best paintings today in daycare. Like father, like daughter? Sophie proudly announces that she went into the pool without her flotation device. Life is good. Blessings abound.
The girls get a special treat of push-up lemonade pops for dessert because they have eaten well.
“Daddy bought them!” Sophie tells me as I help pull the top off her cherry lemonade. The pink matches her pretty blouse. Hannah gets a lime version and seems content. Has someone sprinkled fairy dust on these two tonight? No disputes and more “thank you Daddy" for buying the dessert.
Jenn smirks and David looks up. “What? They are fruit pops.”
Super mom gently reveals that there’s an awful lot of fructose syrup in what super dad thought was mostly pure fruit treats. His face falls and he looks stricken. The girls’ faces are beaming as they consume a delicious dessert and know that they got the best of the bargain tonight. Desserts don’t come easy in this house. Babci’s house is another matter. Another generation. Sugar was not a banned substance when the girls’ mommy was growing up. It can still be found in Babci’s cupboards and fridge. Sophie and Hannah are getting wise to the hidden stash.
The girls finish their dessert and calmly, calmly head up the stairs to continue playing in their separate bedrooms. Each is happy and needs private time. Hannah gets mommy to put her to bed tonight; Sophie gets daddy. Shifts rotate. Babci has the night off and must return to her homework for tomorrow’s meeting.
I give my son-in-law a kiss and hug before I’m out the door, telling him that he is a good, hard-working man. My daughter is a lucky gal.
Walking back down the street, I gaze at the mountains which are just starting to shed their muted colors of brown and green for something richer. The air is milder than it has been recently. Oddly, no dogs bark as I pass their houses. All is peaceful and still. A dazzling splash of mums in a neighbor’s garden catches my eye. I can see that these hardy mums are going to put up a fight as the days grow shorter and the air turns colder. Their bright faces will want to keep shining a bit longer.
Bright faces ... in the garden, at the kitchen table.
I feel calm and content, so thankful that I decided to walk on up the hill and accept the invitation to dinner. I think of what had been missing in my life these past several years. Eating alone. Being alone.
I was hungry for more than a good meal.