It was a better birthday idea than roller skating.
First, we drove over the lumpy road to the orchards, where all the cars and the women in tall black boots and fancy sweaters reached up to a branch and down to plunk another just-picked red orb into the plastic bag.
Children ran across the grass, matted down by a steady stream of cars coming and going. Bags bulged with fat apples. The air was cold. The girls ran between the rows of trees, the older brother playing World War II, and the girls played with him.
Then it was the cabbage patch that drew them. Who knew that sixth-grade girls would love to pull on the round green cabbages tied to the ground by vines and take one home to make who-kn0ws-what. It was all I could do to stop them at one apiece.
The tomatoes were too stomped over to pick anymore, but we found one red pepper and a bunch of green ones. Grace picked jalapeños to take to her mother. Shaya so carefully picked one raspberry after another, wearing his ski gloves, the gray clouds rolling over us.
They screamed in the haunted house but went in a second time. Loved the black hole. Got lost in the corn maze.
Caught between sunrise and sunset, we rolled over the knobby dirt road, between so many cars, to a full parking lot and a long line of people paying to leave. We’d picked pie pumpkins, too. $58 the tab at the end. “Poor people should come here for their food,” one of the girls said. Best favors of any party yet.
And in the end, there was a Modern Family quiz on my phone while the radio played their music and they talked about boys. It was the perfect way to say happy 11th birthday to my girl, my sweet long-haired girl, my boisterous, soft girl who climbed into my bed at night and snuggled up close and we almost fell asleep just like that, comfortable in each other’s presence.