I hoist Anneliese up onto my left hip and open the sliding door with my right hand almost simultaneously. I’ve walked around seedlings scattered across the floor, slipped on my sturdy muck boots, and found the egg basket tucked away beneath a discarded jacket. Evangeline doesn’t need much from me to do this daily task: she gets her blue crocs and puts them on, decides she doesn’t need a coat, and tells me next time, she can open the door for me.
We step out into the morning sunshine.
Evangeline’s mud kitchen beckons to her from the deck. I hadn’t covered it with the blue tarp, so it sits in all its dirty, creative glory. Measuring cups, bowls, ladles, all strewn about in some sort of crazy genius laboratory. I think what a gift for the girls to play with — what a gift for me of time.
I might have my boots on, but I swear I can still feel the silver-dewed grass in my toes. Not every morning is so festooned, a consequence of light rain the night before and perfect temperatures, I guess. The smell of sweet grass, earthy dirt from our freshly turned garden, and the tiny red leaf buds on the trees fills the air, and somewhere between our house and the chicken house door — somewhere near the beehive where the eager girls are just beginning to take off for their morning flight — I take a deep breath. Anneliese shifts in my arms. I kiss the sweet spot beneath her rounded cheek. I wonder, How many more mornings will I hold you? How can I savor these mundane moments that pierce my heart with joy?
I open the henhouse door to the coop and the girls come running out. There is a fresh bed of raked leaves for them to explore, and their happiness is obvious. Evangeline runs to the side of the house, determined to unlatch the egg box door for the first time (she’s been struggling with the lock for days now). This must be the day she clicked it open because I hear, “Mama! I did it! I did it!” and indeed, the door hangs open and two smooth brown eggs lie waiting to be scooped up and carried by a three-year-old in her little basket.
“One for me, and one for Anneliese,” she says, putting them in her basket. She divvies the eggs up each morning, and there is a clear hierarchy: Evangeline, Anneliese, then Mama, then Papa. The order never waivers.
We head back to the house, my heart still momentarily filled with a quiet appreciation for this fleeting phase of my life, when Evangeline stops and turns around.
“Mama, go back and say good morning to the bees!”
She has no pretense (not yet) and no agenda, other than to experience the world and encounter it with awe. Later that same day, she will scream at her sister when she tries to take her crayons. She will look at me with the desperation of a wronged child, one whose tiny sibling just doesn’t understand. There are already layers to little ones, and I would be wrong to disregard that.
But this layer, this doing of a morning task that I often begrudge, this is what will sustain me when I want to run out of my house and slam the door. This is what will sustain me when the mud kitchen looks more like the charged scene from a restaurant movie than a children’s play toy.
Say good morning to the bees!
And I do.
[Photos: Gabe Knell]