“It’s Lamber! No, it’s a rocket ship! No, it’s meteor! Wait! It’s Super Lamber!”
I’m happiest when I hear Marigold playing while I paint, cook, or read.
She’s happiest when we’re playing together.
“Guess who’s my best friend!” she says.
“Lamber?” I ask. “Riley?”
“No, silly! You are!”
Stray Dog has wandered off. We look for him everyday, and we keep expecting him. Every time we hear a dog bark in the distance, we think it’s him. It never is.
We mark the years with birthdays, hers in fall, mine in spring.
The same crowd comes to every party: Frank, Arkvoodle, Joe, the Nixes, Hetal Anjali, Chauncey, Felicity and Faith, and whoever else happens to show up.
I notice each year that our friends are growing up and growing old. And then one year, when I look in the mirror, I notice how gray my hair has become, and Lord! Are those crow’s feet around my eyes? Sure enough, I’ve joined the white-hairs.
“Good party, huh, Marigold?” Frank asks. “You like that dim sum?”
Marigold, who has an athlete’s appetite, ate three helpings of dim sum at this party.
When all the guests leave and Marigold is tucked in, I sit alone and rock. If there are things I want to do in life, I realize, it’s time for me to do them. But what else do I want? I want Stray Dog to return, but he never does. I’d like to travel a bit, now that Marigold’s old enough to enjoy a trip and while I’m still active enough for hiking and adventures. Maybe we can go to Egypt, so that Marigold can sample her favorite food, falafels.
I book us a trip.
Soon, it’s time. We arrive in the early morning.
“Let’s go to the market,” I say.
“It’s awfully sunny here,” says Marigold. “Where are the clouds?”
At the market, Marigold is so hot that she swims in the fountain.
“I need water!” she says. “I’m not a sun turtle!”
We take a few day trips, the see the Sphinx and explore some desert ponds, but most of the time we spend at base camp. I learn the recipe for falafels, so I can make them at home.
Marigold discovers a desert tortoise.
“Is he happy here?” she asks.
“Does he look happy?”
“Yeah. Do you think he’d like it back home?”
“With all that rain and snow and mist and fog? No. He’s a sun tortoise, and this is his home.”
I meet other travelers, and I always wind up telling them about Dante, and they always end up bored, listening to an old woman reminisce about her lover who died while they were both young. Before I get to the part about how our love never died, they’ve stopped listening and are looking for opportunities to escape. I miss Dante and the red pulsing light of his heart.
“We need to go home,” Marigold tells me. “What if Stray Dog comes back, and we’re not there?”
“Stray Dog will wait,” I tell her. “If he comes, he’ll come at night, and you know how he loves ghosts! Dante and Martin will be sure to keep him there until we return.”
Marigold pretends she’s a king of an ancient kingdom.
“What decrees should I make?” she asks me.
“Anything!” I tell her. “Just decide what you want and make it so!”
When I walk her to her tent that night, I ask what decrees she made.
“Just one,” she says. “I decree our vacation to be over so we can go home!”
“Good decree!” I tell her. “It just so happens this is the last night of our trip, and tomorrow, bright and early, we fly home!”
Our home never looked sweeter than when we arrived.
“It’s raining!” says Marigold, and the mist settles over the mountains. “I missed you, rain.”
Even the gnomes celebrate our homecoming.
“Three cheers! They’re here! They’re here! The wanderers have returned!” shouts Snowflake.
“Hip-hip-hooray!” yells Bucktooth.
We are home, at the sweetest point of any trip, the coming home point.