There was one quiet period when Lydia was at Mandarin Gourmet, having lunch with her friends; Eli was at John’s house, doing some mysterious thing that teenage boys do, fueled by Vitamin Water and cheddar cheese potato chips; and Jimmy was at Roche Brothers, getting provisions.
Grace and I were home, quietly puttering around. I sorted the junk mail on the dining room table while she worked at a rainy-day gardening task I gave her: creating plant markers for all the “new” perennials I made over the summer by dividing the overgrown ones. They’re about to fade into the ground for the winter, and I want to mark their places while they’re still recognizable. Look at this — 45 plants from the original seven.
Finished with lettering, Grace wanted another chore. “Do you want to organize the spice jars?” I asked. We have too many, including lots of half-containers of duplicates and triplicates (four little shakers of thyme leaves!). I put them all on the counter for her, and then she arranged them according to her own scheme, which had something to do with size. Any scheme is better than no scheme.
I left her arrangement out for a while, admiring it and inviting the comers-home to admire it, too. Hours later, after Grace was asleep, I filed them away into the cabinet.
During the industrious and peaceful hour or two, I suddenly thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, and how much I loved them as a child, and how the drama of the family’s survival is punctuated by these moments of unadorned pleasure of a kind we don’t usually get to experience in our lives, in a time when the birch plant markers have to be ordered online and delivered by UPS, and when we can walk across one intersection and get Starbucks coffee or egg drop soup any time we want. I like that, and I even wish sometimes that there were still more restaurants within walking distance of my house, but I also like when, as I felt on Saturday, what you have to do is not be anywhere else but where you are.