Four mornings a week the boys go off to school and it’s just us girls at home. I remember how long the days seemed when I was home all alone with Mattheus all day, back when we were a family of three. I know how fast it goes now, and I try not to take for granted these mornings when Opal and I move slowly and peacefully through the morning, the house quiet for a change.
It’s not very exciting. I putter about doing housework, satisfied to know how much will be done by the time the boys walk in the door. Opal does her own work. Sometimes she stands at the sink, for what seems like most of the morning, washing, making fish ponds, waterfalls. There’s usually a huge puddle on the floor when she is done, and I cringe a bit at all of that water going down the drain. But, she loves it, and how that warm water must feel on her dry Colorado winter skin. I have a hard time redirecting her. Often she plays with every toy in the house, thankful to have it all to herself. She also carefully goes through her brothers’ “special things,” baskets tucked under their beds of crystals and rocks, tiny toys and stuffed animals, post cards and pens–all that they have claimed of their own in this house where almost everything is shared . Picking up and marveling at each item, Opal seems certain that there is nothing more magical than the hat of an acorn. If it is so special to a big brother, it must be important. We return the treasures to their right place when she is done so that her brothers are none the wiser. Although, I’m pretty sure Mattheus, so careful and observant, is on to us.
We sit at the table and eat snack quietly, talking very little. Afterwards, we have a walk around the block. At the end of our street there is a bunny statue sitting on the fence. She points it out every time. We turn the corner and wave to the construction workers who have been busy building a house for months. They look forward to seeing us. Around the next corner there is a big black dog that never barks. Usually she simply lifts her head to say hello, but on special days, for reasons unknown to us, she gets up and trots over to the fence. “Big black dog, come see us!” Opal exclaims in joy and a little nervousness. As we turn onto our street, we pass the park and by the flock of winter Canadian geese. Opal reminds me, “Mosie no chase geese, Mama.” Things with Opal must be just so, and she rarely neglects to remind us. The whole walk, except for a shy moment with the workers, she chatters away. Pointing out every small detail. The chickadees and sparrows in the bare branches that scatter away as we come close, and return just after we have passed. She talks about the neighbors, many of whom we are lucky to know by name. She looks at me with a twinkle in her eye when she sees the puddle that always gathers in the same place. “Not today, Opal, we’re not wearing our puddle boots.” “No, Mama. No puddle boots,” she responds, earnestly nodding her head with that familiar tilt to the right. When the sun is shining and the road is dry, she runs down the last stretch of hill to home. “Opal running. Go fast.”
Back from our walk, we often end up in my studio. It’s hard to work with three kids downstairs, a lot easier with one. Opal makes short work of bringing chaos–or is it creativity–to the carefully folded piles of fabric. She makes spider webs of yarn. In the little kitchen that has found at least a temporary home at the bottom of the stairs, she makes eggs and bacon and turkey. All foods that she watches her big brothers eat, but she is not yet allowed to. I love that she sees me creating with my hands. That making beautiful things is a balance to the necessary consuming we’ve accepted as part of our lives.
We’ve developed a cereal ritual, observed each day while I prepare lunch. When I’m done cooking and the last drop of milk is gone, she is happily tucked into bed. (Stomach full of cereal, she waits to eat lunch until she wakes up.) Not without a kiss and a nose kiss and three blankets in the right order, her blankie, her baby Ruby, her knit bunny, Bunby, and two books–no more, no less. Things must be just so with Opal.
Her brothers burst through the door soon after, words rushing out of their mouths, describing the adventures of the morning. Most of them are actually created out of their own minds. And another chapter of the day begins.