“When will it be over?” she asks between bites.
The burgers took longer than expected. Fireflies blink, cicadas croon. In the glare of the deck lights, her shampooed head is a crystal ball doused in moonlight. It’s nearly nine, and girlfriend sits with her knees pulled high beneath her nightgown, relishing. If she chews slowly, she can delay bedtime; if she asks the right questions – well, the night is rife with possibility, no?
“Not for a while, probably.” There’s no use lying to this one. She sees the gold behind the zirconium, cracks every sugary coating. “But school will start soon. That’s something, isn’t it? A chance to see your friends again?”
Her eyes flicker. Happiness. The promise of a routine once dubbed boring, insufficient, now shining like sapphire at the tips of her fingers. As the bats awaken and the citronella burns, I want to ask what she’ll remember about this time – what she’ll feel when she looks back, if she’ll ever forgive me for all the ways I messed it up – but the question seems displaced, untimely. Who am I to rush perspective when there’s a cheeseburger to be eaten?
Instead, what I hope she’ll remember.
While the world buckles beneath the heft of its own fear and agenda, I hope she remembers picking tomatoes from the neighbor’s garden and eating them like apples, elbows dripping. I hope she remembers learning to cook blueberry pancakes and turkey bacon for the very first time, what it feels like to wash an entire load of laundry all by herself, folding included. I hope she remembers lilacs on the counter and Highwomen on the record player, ankle deep in white paint, roller at the ready. I pray she recalls tearing through the caution tape for one rebellious trip down the slide, just one, and hovering near a group of teenagers talking and laughing about teenager-y things at the lake until her mom tells her to stop, that her day will come soon enough.
Looking back, I hope she remembers this as the summer her littlest sister coined the lightning / thunder hybrid “linder” during a particularly noisy rainstorm – the same storm that Alice in Wonderland mutes at just the right volume. I hope she remembers multiplication tables and delicious detours from the Common Core; homemade pedicures, dad included, and a crack at The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. I hope she and her sisters recall balancing on piles of oak planks that will later become a living room floor, watching dad drive the nails one by one, ears covered.
I hope they see the intention through the chaos, the resilience through the tears – how their mama’s resolve fizzles each day but resurges like magic with a cup of fresh coffee. I hope they remember what it feels like to struggle, to want what they can’t have, to continue moving forward. I hope they remember their sisters, their family – playing, fighting, becoming each other’s best friends. I hope they remember love spreading inside their home like an unquenchable virus, like a raging pandemic.