“O-HO!!” Dave hoots, fists clenched on arms upraised. Leaping back from his post at the ironing board, he dances tribute to the Patriots’ lead over the Rangers. In a moment he sweeps the phone from its cradle, calling his father with a smug grin, “How ‘bout those Patriots?!” he says and the two celebrate across the miles.
The sports announcers murmur in the background as Dave and his father banter, grousing and howling as plays unfold. Dave treasures the knowledge that his father is settled in his mustard yellow recliner in his Worcester apartment on Harley Drive, intent on the screen, there to receive that reflex call, there to fire back and bluster.
Dave may be ironing, but I’m still in bed, reading, the remains of breakfast, a crust of toast from Dave’s home-made cinammon bread, set aside on a blue splotchware plate. Our cats are snuggled beside me, Fuzz shamelessly angling for space and attention, Raven, imperious, gazing at me levelly with unblinking yellow eyes.
The day outside is brightening as sunshine whittles at snow lying heavy on low-hanging limbs. Shadows lengthen across the yard down to the woods edge bordered by the old stone wall. Dave beckons me to the window to see the tracks in the snow, trails speaking of the early morning search for scattered seed. The intrigue of survival is dramatically captured where the splayed imprint of a hawk’s wing puts an end to a scamper of squirrel tracks.
* * *
It is late afternoon and Dave and his brother Steve are playing music in the cellar; “Born to be Wild” thunders through the floorboards. We can feel the electric hum of the keyboard behind the guitars as the boys do their rock star thing while Casey and I sit in front of the fire running lines for Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Casey is making headbands as she responds to her cues, and Fuzz lies toasty warm against my leg.
We skip over the parts for the daughter, Emily, as our goal is to practise Casey as Mrs. Gibbs, but my eye stops at Emily’s impassioned, “Oh Earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you! Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it - every, every minute?” I yearn to say, “Yes... yes, I do,” but would that be honest? It takes constant effort to be fully concious and too often I take life’s gifts for granted.
I spend these wintry Sunday afternoons happily reading, rug-hooking, or running lines, while the boys slip into their youthful skins to banter, sing and play. I love the sound of their time together - they are realizing life as they wail away in our basement.
On this particular day, I relish the cheer of the fire crackling, radiating its light and warmth. Casey, industrious in her hairband production, sits ensconced in the wingback chair next to the fire. Raven has joined us and rouses her brother from his nap with a gentle lick to the nose. She slinks about, scouting a nesting place and curls, shining ebony, in the antique wood box by the wingback.
Casey leans close to her sewing, intent as she draws the thread through a length of yellow gingham. Periodically she wraps the piece about her forehead, trying it for size. There’s a pause in the rhythms emanating from the basement. “So Glad We Made It” just ended in a resounding crash of cymbals not entirely in keeping with our peace upstairs, but the exuberance makes us smile.
Raven abandons her nest to curl up with her brother on the couch next to me. They seem to love each other as much as human siblings do. They snuggle up, Raven’s head on Fuzz’s shoulder, their sides rising and falling with each gentle intake of breath.
I have tried to freeze these precious moments, but despite my best efforts, the kids have grown and Dave and I have aged. But I am warm and content as the house grows dark. The embers in our cavernous stone fireplace glow and pulse as if alive, the embodiment of heart.