Mia and Divia help me unpack the new fairy garden furniture. There’s a wide empty space about eight feet square under the maple tree, bordered by hostas and ferns. We arrange the diminutive wheelbarrow and pots, the beehive and trug, a tiny birdhouse and tools. The girls fill the fairy bucket and watering can with water from the bathroom sink and pour a few drops in the fairy birdbath. We pick white clover heads, a few pink flox blossoms. I clip two sweetheart spray roses and some viburnum blossoms, the palest green. Divia pulls off the purple ends of some Russian sage and calls it “violets.” With all these flowers they decorate the small pots and urns. I’m charmed. Nora tries to help, but really only wants to push down the little lean-to house we have made of sticks, roofed with lichen colored bark.
“Baby Godzilla!” we call out when she bats it down.
Divia chatters on about a rainbow tiger she brought home from the zoo and bosses around the happy-to-comply Mia.
“No, put the violets here, where the fairies can see them!”
Divia’s family is moving to New York. Keyshore, her father, will perform surgery at Mount Sinai on the upper East Side.
I bring out two big bowls of soapy water, one warm to wash their hands, the other cool for their feet. They go back and forth between the bowls. Nora tries to stand with both feet in the round foot bath. I would dry their feet with my hair, were it longer.
Divia’s wavy black hair is to her waist, Mia’s new haircut has bounced her ends into Shirley Temple curls. We have a snack of the pie I made yesterday from the last of the farmer’s market apricots, raspberries and peaches. Mia says, “yuck!” at the pie but eats goldfish crackers and pb and j on slices of the free sourdough boule left over from a commercial shoot at the village bakery yesterday.
When Mia starts gnawing on a cut end of the round boule, I tell her if she hollows out the soft middle, I’ll make her a hat out of the hard crust. She laughs. Nora stands on the bar stool seat and drinks a baby cup of juice, tipping back her head as she grasps the handles with both hands. Later, she pats the plastic cups in the dishwasher rack rhythmically and babbles gutterally, deep in her throat, practicing her Tuvan throat singing and baffling us. “Why is the baby doing that?” we laugh.
We walk Divia out to the front and she says she can run home so the big girls hug and she takes off down the sidewalk, her long hair swinging. We watch her all the way down the block, to the seventh house away. Mia says, “she’s cool,” as Divia turns to wave and yell, “Bye!”
Mia yells, “Tell your mom about it!” and Divia replies, “Okay!” and turns up her walk, disappears. We stand for a minute, still watching and yes, Lakshmi appears, hurrying to the sidewalk to wave to us. She knew we could be watching and waiting. We understand her wave. It says Divia arrived safe and she’s back with her mother.
We turn back to the house.
Looking back, reading these words I’ve written about this morning, this catalog of pleasures, I don’t feel queasy at the whimsy of the garden, the pie. The preciousness is tempered, for me, by a streak of sharpness cutting through the sweet. Because even in the middle of bubble-blowing through a wand with the tiniest of star shaped holes that throws out a flurry of fingernail-sized soap spheres, I fade away. The girls are busy catching the bubbles that glide slowly in the still, humid air and perhaps it’s my lightheadedness from blowing, or the slightly abbreviated sleep last night or even pleasure saturation, or even boredom, but I fade for a moment back to what? Memories? No, nothing even as well formed as that, just a slight touch back to something unnamed, grief perhaps. I sense something that is not here, the dark sense of something lost and then I’m back. Here they are, my two curly haired big babies, three years old and eighteen months, in the most beautiful and most angry summer of my life. Time to go in, wash up, play, nap.