Marigold spends half the summer up in the tree house. I smile to think of what a nature girl she is.
“When can I learn to garden?” she asks me.
“Oh, you can help anytime,” I reply. “And when you’re older, you can take over the garden, if you want.”
On the day we’re heading to the festival, we both wake up early.
“I’m so excited for Summer Fest!” I say.
“Everything feels all sparkly shiny!”
While I clean our breakfast dishes, she heads out and rides her rocking pony.
What spirit she has! I love to watch her play with such abandon. She’s so strong, and, the hero of every game she plays, so brave!
At the festival, I order lunch for both of us.
But when I carry our order to the table, I see that Marigold has entered herself into a hot dog eating contest.
She stands before a plate piled high with hot dogs. And next to her, is a tall man with a stomach twice the size of hers.
I’m not worried. I know Marigold has a hollow leg. I remember the three plates of dim sum she ate at our last party!
And sure enough, she cleans the plate while her competitor is still working on the last six. She is the champion!
At home that night, she asks me to read her Greek myths.
“Who tonight?” I ask. “Hercules?”
“Perseus!” she shouts.
I knew she’d choose Perseus. I’d told her that he was my favorite when I was ten. We like the way he tricks the monsters and carries Medusa’s head around with him, turning enemies to stone.
“I think that to defeat monsters you just need to keep a cool head, right, Mom?” she says. “I mean, that’s all that Perseus does. It’s not like he’s stronger than them. It’s that he knows how to think. That’s because he’s not afraid. Everyone else is like, ‘Oooh! Scary!’ But Perseus is just, ‘Outta my way. You think you’re tough?’ and then he tricks them.”
She falls asleep before we finish the chapter.
Sometimes I wonder what type of super woman Marigold might grow up to be. I hope she keeps this undaunted spirit, her attitude that she can do anything, and her own brand of bravery well into adulthood. I hope I’m around to see her become a young adult, though, when I’m honest with myself, I realize that it’s not likely. I still feel the same inside as I did when I was not much older than Marigold, but truth-be-told, my friends are passing, one by one, and I know I’m marching in the same line, just a bit further down.
I was always worried that Dante would lose interest in me as I became old. I mean, he passed when he was young, and I can’t imagine that he’d find gray-haired me all that appealing.
But my worries were for naught.
“Of course I still love you,” he says. “And I love the way you look. I’ve loved watching you grow older. It’s almost as good as being able to grow old along with you.”
While Marigold sleeps, we sit together in the living room, like an old couple, watching the sky turn gray before the sun brings back the colors. I realize that, for a while now, I’ve been content.