I woke up this morning to Finley spooning me. Her face was close enough that my hair fluttered as she sighed. I kept my eyes closed because I wasn’t ready. She ran her finger up and over my shoulder again and again. I listened, the house was quiet but for the ceiling fans running.
“Where are your sisters?” I murmured softly enough that she’d know I still wasn’t committed to waking up.
“Briar is downstairs, when I looked for Ave I couldn’t find her in her bed. Did Dad leave?”
I nodded, she hugged me tighter. I cracked an eye, she beamed at me. I tried to keep it open, but the pull of sleep and the resistance to all that the day would hold was too strong. She was still as I drifted off again. Dreams and thoughts chest bumped in my mind, good sleep was over. I opened my eyes.
“You ready?” I asked her. She nodded. “Me too,” I said.
As we got breakfast together Finley rattled off all the things we were going to do. These were things I’d said to her as I tried to get her to go to sleep the night before, most of them preceded by, “Maybe we’ll…”
“So, ok, girls. Are you listening? Girls? First, mom is taking us to the market, you know, for cider and a heart cookie. Then we’ll go to Friends of Phoebe to donate for Mae. Then we’re going to a park. Then we’re coming home and mom is going to build a fort in the backyard and we are going to play faeries and tell stories. We aren’t getting a cat at Phoebe’s but we might, right mom?”
I looked at her sisters and said, “We’ll see.”
I made good on my promise when we got to the market, they looked like the Cheshire cat as they held their heart-shaped, rainbow sprinkle cookies and clutched cider and chocolate milk in their hands. They followed me, weaving through the shoppers in the pavilion. They helped me pick green beans and onions, pickles and baguettes. By the time we got to the park we were tired and it was getting hot.
We darted from the swings, to the monkey bars, and then over to the natural playground on the other side of the park. They called out character assignments, I was Queen Clarion, guardian of all of Pixie Hollow. Ave was a fast faerie, Fin was a water faerie, and Briar was, very nonchalantly, a Tinker. “Do you not want to play?” I asked her.
“No,” she said softly.
“You embarrassed, sweets?”
“No, not at all. It’s just that I kind of want to wander and maybe just sometimes float in and out,”” I rubbed her shoulders and then ran, tiptoe-style down the hill while calling out, “Faeries, faeries are you all alright?” We played like that for a while before making our way back to the other side of the park.
“Mom, I’m kinda hot. Can we leave soon?” Briar asked as we walked down the ramp of the wooden ship.
“‘scuse me,” came a voice below us. A boy, maybe 5 or 6, was leaning on a railing and looking at Briar. She started to side-step him.
“Ek-thk-use me,” he said deliberately, stepping toward Briar. “I kinda need some help. Do you know how to LEGO? Because I don’t really know how to LEGO and I got a kit at the store and if you could help me it’d be really thuper,” his lisp ducked in and out of his words. His summer-worn tennis shoes scraped at the ground and the spikes on top of his head reminded me of a dinosaur back.
Briar looked at me awkwardly. “Honey, I think he really wants your help. You think you might like to help him?” I knew she was hot and, frankly, we don’t really ‘know how to LEGO,’ but she nodded. “Sure.”
“Great,” he said as he led her to a bench.
They sat with him for 20 minutes building the TIE Interceptor, Briar read the instructions aloud, while Ave found the necessary LEGO pieces. I asked a few times if they needed help, “We’ve got it, Mom.” It was strange not being the one who stepped into fix it, it was also intoxicating to watch my girls help this little kid. I played with Fin while they finished building.
“Ready to go?” I called as Briar and Avery bid the little boy and his ship goodbye. “Yes!” they shouted as they ran toward me. “Can we go to Friends of Phoebe now?” I nodded and drove toward the shelter where we’d gotten Mae. We spent twenty minutes visiting the kittens and thanking Kim, the owner, for giving us the best cat we’d ever known. She accepted our donation humbly. The drive home was quiet.
“You guys want me to build that fort that we talked about?” They nodded quietly. When we got home I set them up with a snack as I went out to build a fort. It was still hot and I was tired. I wanted to curl up next to a fan and just be. I sat down with my heap of curtains and tapestries and looked up at the sky. The clouds rippled like meringue. A breeze floated through the yard and I got a whiff of forever, that scent of my own childhood mixed with hope for the season ahead. I stood up and started tying knots—time to build a forever fort. We all needed it.
“Girls, it’s ready,” I called. They came thundering out, “Really?”
Fin screamed, “Oh, girls look!” We all climbed in together.
They walked around, claiming their spots and marveling at the way the light came through the different fabrics. The breeze was a co-conspirator in the magic, fluttering the different walls as if on cue. Finley ran and got a stack of books.
After we read and as the light began to change, we cuddled up close. “Can we braid your hair, mom?” Briar asked. “And can I twist it, because I can’t braid. It’ll still look amazing, mom,” Finley gushed. I smiled as Ave said, “You go ahead girls, I’m going to take the picture and then edit it. I’ll make it look great.”
It was a long day and a good day. The platitudes of the years being minutes resonated and yet I found that the energy I gather from those moments of breathing in forever and from seeing my daughters muster the wherewithal to keep going, even when they’re ready to collapse, expands the minutes. We find and build our own fluid minutes and within them capture memories that will live on forever.