E.V.’s in a diaper, sitting on the kitchen table, criss-cross-apple-sauce, slowly working on a strawberry popsicle that’s melting more quickly than she can finish it. The sugary drips are landing on her legs below, and she’s entertained by the stickiness all over her half-naked body, so she uses the popsicle to rub them into swirls. Her lips are nearly blue, her teeth are pink, but she’s happy and smiling, her pigtails holding her hair back from being a part of the mess. She’s sitting in front of the computer, staring at the album art as “Under the Sea” plays on Pandora. “Oh, that blowfish blow!” That computer has become a hot topic over the past few months: Our tiny home has no space for Ryan’s office since Cricket’s nursery kicked him out last year, and so his work is strewn throughout the house — a computer living on the kitchen table, a pile of hard drives stacked in the living room, a ball of papers and books and wires growing daily on our bookshelf — all crying out for their own space. “Give it a couple of months,” we say to each other, “then we’ll be in our new house.” Until then, we both just turn a blind eye and talk about what his office will be like once we leave Amityville.
Cricket’s murmuring beside me in her high chair. It’s strange for me to look at her in that chair and think that it was Emma Vance in there just a few months ago. Over Christmas E.V. sat in it again for a brief moment, and it was laughable. Her legs dangled down awkwardly, the tray cut into her belly, but she was happy and giggling like a giant, oversized baby. In contrast, Cricket sits in it quite nicely, and as of lately has even taken to trying to climb out of it to join her sister on the kitchen table. But not right now. Right now she’s fully occupied. There are frozen peas strewn about, and Cricket’s picking them up with her right hand one by one and carefully placing them in her tiny mouth, methodically and with utter concentration. Her chubby little left hand is holding a frozen rag, and in between peas she’s chewing on it casually. Her top right tooth is about to poke out, and it’s been driving her crazy for the past few days. I rub my finger on it, thinking that it might help. She’s babbling a lot these days, and in between Sebastian’s Jamaican jammin’ I can hear Cricket’s cooing.
E.V.’s popsicle falls off the stick, onto the table, and she immediately picks it up and hands it to me. “It’s broken!” It’s not broken, I tell her, and if she wants to eat the rest of it, she can sit in her actual seat and I’ll get her a spoon to finish it. “No, a fork,” she says cheerfully as she scrambles down into her rightful place, and I count this maneuver as a win for me. She’s bound and determined to finish that popsicle, regardless of the fact that it’s freezing out — literally. So, per her request, a fork it is.
Ryan’s on his way home for the airport as we wait in the kitchen. He’s been in California for almost a week, and we’ve been Facetiming each day to keep us from going crazy. (Read: To keep me from crying everyday.) Our family is about to be whole again, and as ordinary of a moment in time as it is, it’s beautiful. Like the last possible second of holding your breath, when you feel as if surely your lungs are going to burst right out of your chest, and then in a fireworks display of a second, you release and breathe in deeply, relieved in an instant of everything that worried you. I begin banging on Cricket’s tray, and she joins in, giggling as we bang in rhythm. I begin counting down.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
And then we’re one again. These are my people. We are all here. We are all happy.