Zesting the blood oranges, then squeezing the black-red juice over the whole chicken, skin and all. The halves stuffed inside for flavor, for aroma, for seeping through the skin and meat to the bone.

Olive oil drizzled over top and spices – garlic, onion, salt, pepper, paprika. Baked at 350 until the juices run clear and then tearing the pieces away from the whole, slicing thin pieces of meat into the juices.

Broccolini sauteed and simmered with garlic until crunchy-soft. Mushrooms – baby bellas and shitakes – soft and fragrant. A salad of shredded cabbage, salted pumpkin seeds, scallions and avocado, dressed in balsamic vinegar.

The kids came home with hugs. The table was set for dinner. But first, chocolate lollipops and Mamma Mia on the TV. “You got it from the movie store,” they exclaimed as if it were the greatest gift.

The baby nuzzled the mother’s cheek repeatedly. The older children kept climbing into her lap. The bath swept in current and wave. The baby peed on the toilet for the first time. There was calm. There was synergy. They were home.

…he hears the cheep of winter birds searching the snow for crumbs of garbage and knows exactly how much light and how much darkness is there before the dawn…he thinks of places he has never seen but heard about, of the great desert his father said was like no sea he had ever crossed and how at dusk or dawn it held all the shades of red and blue in its merging shadows…he had come to live for those suspended moments… (Every Blessed Day, Philip Levine)

Before they returned, she hiked through leaf-covered muddy paths, the trees bare enough to gleam the sun onto her face. It was beautiful and whole and she turned her face to seep it in.

Before they returned, a voice on the line from so many years before familiar in its folding. They shared a name though they were not family and he spoke of his three-year impossible love. She remembered the sound of the river rushing past the window at his house where she slept. She kept it open at night just to feel the pace of the river moving on its way.

She had climbed the Big Horn Mountains and eaten cheese and sausage by an ice lake, in which she saw a bear claw floating. She turned away because there was so much else to see.

Before they returned, late afternoon sunlight walked in through the open door, announcing what was forthcoming, establishing the day. The house isn’t so bad, she told herself, and thought it again when the daughter bounded in, her blond hair bouncing and the door swinging slowly closed behind her. The now is good, she told herself as the children collapsed into her open arms. Rich enough for me.


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