When I come home from my run, I kick off my beat-up Adidas sneakers and toss them back into the shoe basket. I can smell the scent of popcorn wafting out of the open windows. Our family is big on the Popcorn food group. Leftover popcorn with sugar and milk is a delicious alternative to cereal. At lunch, we melt and broil cheddar cheese on popcorn. For a snack, Julian sprinkles popcorn with cinnamon sugar. Our dinner involves popcorn and tomato soup. Thompson started our habit of throwing pieces of popcorn into tomato soup; the first time he dropped some pieces in the bowl, he said, “Look, Mom, the popcorn is swimming.” Dessert, anyone? We coat it with melted chocolate chips and...tada! The chocolate hardens in a cluster of popcorn and chocolate. Sometimes, we toss in cocoanut and chopped nuts. I am not the lease bit surprised to smell the popcorn at 7a.m..
I move into the house, down the central hallway. My head turns to the right and I take in the large front sitting room with its tall, wide, many mullioned windows. To the left, I see the smaller, cozy den. The next door on the left in the dining room. Across the back of the entire house is the kitchen and family room. Everyone is clustered around the central island. The television is blaring and no one notices that I am back. Declan is saying, “Does anyone else want popcorn in their’s?” I peek into the frying pan and see three pancakes dotted with chocolate chips and popcorn. A growing stack of pancakes sits on a plate by the pan. I grin,”Oh, the mighty have fallen. And you made fun of me having gone popcorn crazy! I can take it from here if you want to jump in the shower.” Our lips gave a resounding smack when we kiss, evoking a groan from Julian and Thompson and happy, clapping hands from Sarah.
Declan disappears toward the back stairs to get ready for his job at the magazine. For years, he worked from 7a.m. to 3p.m.. Now his hours are his to make because of his title as Editor-in-Chief. He is a minority share owner of Perennial Gardens Magazine, a small, national magazine popular with avid gardeners and landscape architects. The magazine uses some of Whately’s fertile fields for its trials and experiments. Three greenhouses with lights allow year-round growing. Declan graduated from U. Mass, Amherst, but never left the fertile Connecticut River Valley. Never did he plan on falling in love with a local girl with deep roots in the area. He came to the Valley from Providence. It was Declan’s ties to Rhode Island that led us to buy our summer house at Miquamicut Beach in R.I..
Thompson and Julian sit on the stool at the counter next to Sarah’s high chair. The boys are loudly disputing who’s turn it is to take out the trash. My running clothes are soaking wet. I peel off my tee shirt, throw that into the laundry room. By the time I walk back in, the garbage is tied shut and the bag replaced. I notice it is Julian who is washing his hands.
“Thompson, would you come here and start feeding Sarah some of these canned peaches?”
“Julian, are you packed and ready for camp? Daddy will drop you at the pickup spot for the bus from the YMCA. Last night, I put your lunch money in a zip lock bag in your back pack. You need your bathing suit... Thompson, please? Pay attention!” Sarah has wrested the spoon from Thompson and now I am wearing Sarah’s peaches. She flung them at me, through the nearby screen door and onto the floor. Grrrr. I make a mental note to add that to the list for Rebecca, our longtime, devoted, can’t-live-without-her housekeeper when she gets here today.
With a practiced hand, I flip the pancakes onto the growing stack, slip those onto the counter in front of the boys and call out, “Eats!” I nibble on one myself as I sprinkle Sarah’s tray with Cheerios. I reflect on which of our mugs to use, choose with one that says ‘Angel for a day,’ and pour myself a cup of coffee. As I add sugar and cream, I have the familiar thought, “I wish I could drink this black.”
Declan returns to the kitchen, smelling of Ivory soap and clean man. I inhale deeply. “Your turn,” he says. “I’m going to leave when Rebecca gets here. Why don’t you see if one of the students can babysit and we’ll grab dinner at the Inn?”
Julian complains, “I don’t need a baby-sitter.”
Declan and I reply in unison, “It’s for Sarah,” then turn back to each other. Okay, I’ll text you.”
Declan asks, “Julian, are you almost ready?” Julian jumps up from the table, then runs to the other room. “Where is my glove?” “Look under your bed,” I call. His footfalls traipse across the floor overhead. A muffled, “I found it,” ensues.
Next, I check in with my eldest son. “Thompson, are you working at the Patterson’s farm today? If so, are you biking or do you have a ride?”
“They don’t need me until next week since the weather’s dry and the cukes aren’t ripe. I’m playing tennis and just hanging out.”
“Work on that chore list, bud.” I kiss Thompson, bump into Julian and get half a hug, then fist bump Thompson. Last, I plant a kiss on top of Sarah’s head, before hoisting my mug and exiting. Already, I have turned my thoughts to what I should wear. I have a board meeting today.