Storms and memories

I'm on my couch, legs out long across it, Percy snoring at my knees. The back door is open, and I've propped the screen door ajar in case Nutmeg wants to come back in. Through a wall of windows, I see my neighbor's dogwood leaning over the corner of my deck luxuriously. It is pregnant with blooms and is most welcome.

There is a rustling in the air, a fuzzy sound that carries with it a hint of breeze. The leaves of my jalapeño plant are waving ever so slightly while the cooked-noodle arms of the next-door willow tremble on a different current. 

Though the skies are the gray blues and whites of dusk, the thinnest veil of rain started staining the deck a darker hue. Now, it's stopped, and the wood looks splotchy. Faintly, far, far in the distance, thunder rumbles inconsistently. 

I hope it comes our way. I hope the skies open and release their watery savings. I hope the thunder roars until it's hoarse. I hope the lightning strikes again and again and again, like so many exclamation points.

The ricotta on the stove hisses just a bit, reminding me that it's almost past time to remove the pot from the heat below it. I take leave from Percy and hurry to run a knife around the rim where cheese meets steel, loosing the curds, before putting things on a back burner to rest and come together. 

I wish I'd made it earlier, so that I could stir some into hot pasta with fresh sorrel and a grate of nutmeg. That's a dish that wouldn't excite Tom, and since he's in Boston, now's the time. Tomorrow. The kids and I watched Jurassic Park (well, Jack played Stack the States and Operation Math; bless his heart.), and I made them ice cream sundaes, so the ricotta had to wait. 

Earlier, I saw two toddlers in a doublewide stroller. They watched, mouths agape, eyes wide, at some construction being done on Mass Ave. Behind them, a caregiver waited patiently. How many times did I take my boys to watch dump trucks and dozers and cranes? How many times did I glance around furtively before letting them climb atop the giant bucket of a parked digger?

I smiled, and drove on, heading to school to take pictures for J's class. End-of-year headshots, for a "look how much they've grown" perspective. I arrived a bit early, during math, and waited happily on the sidelines.

Twenty-two kids sat on the rug staring up at one of their teachers as she, a million months pregnant and amazing, made math come alive. Hands shot up, guesses were proffered, the differences between a prism and pyramid made simply clear. 

One girl pulled her mane of hair into a ponytail, wrapping it with a band in a practiced way. When did she learn to do that? 'Vertices' and 'congruent' and 'pentagonal' flew confidently from the kids' mouths. When did they master this sort of language? Weren't these children just in doublewides staring at construction sites and zoo animals as doting adults pushed and paused and explained?

J turned around briefly and gave me a smile. "I love you," I knew he was thinking. "I love you, too," I thought back. "When did you get so big?" 

His neck is starting to slope into young-man shoulders, his legs are sturdy and dense even though he is so slender. It's as if the baby vanishes from the outside in, and these new solid-state limbs confirm my suspicion that J is a tot no more. In any way.

It's dark outside now, and the storm I'd hoped for remains nothing but a whisper in the wind. I need to drain the ricotta and eat some dinner and get to bed. And I will. But I'll keep listening, should the skies part, and attempting to sear into my brain memories of the boys, as they were and are.