I used to live in a houseful of hippies. Now I live in a houseful of kids. And it isn’t even the same house!
I’d have guessed that three kids and three adults was enough. And it was for a while. We were all happy: Me and Elder, Tani, Emelia, Free-Jon, and Roxie.
I loved watching Free and Roxie play.
“I’m living in a cupcake!” Free-Jon said, goofy smile and all.
Elder, often, was as much a kid as Free, Em, and Roxie.
Emelia, in her own time-bendy way, has always been kid, teen, and grown-up, all braided into one.
We were so happy, and I thought our life could go on that way forever. I said as much to Elder one morning, after the kids left for school and Tani left for work.
“We should have another kid,” Elder said.
He was serious. “Face it! You’re a great mom! I’m a pretty good dad! Free and Em and Roxie will be great big brother and sisters! And you know Tani wants to be auntie to a baby again. You can’t deny Tani!”
“You’re crazy,” I replied.
But half an hour later, I stopped him in the kitchen.
“OK,” I said. “Least we could do is try.”
He closed his eyes.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m dreaming of our baby. We’ll have a little girl, OK? With your eyes!”
“You’re a nut.”
It took a few tries, and we had fun trying, and then one morning at breakfast, I said, “Oops. Eggs don’t taste so good.”
“Do you think?” he asked. I did. And I was.
I felt nervous, though. I didn’t remember having such strong morning sickness with Free. I wanted to wait to tell them as long as we could, just in case it didn’t work out.
Elder had a hard time keeping the secret.
“Did you put cupcakes in that salad?” Free asked his dad.
“Um. Nope. Why?”
“Cause you’re grinning like you ate Joel’s happycakes.”
Elder bear-hugged Free.
“You know you’ll always be my favorite Jon-Jon, right, son?”
Free was being squeezed too hard to let out more than a muffled yep.
Then, in the second trimester, I couldn’t hide it any longer.
“I know you’re not that fat,” Emelia said. “When were you planning on telling us?”
“Congratulations on what?” Free asked.
“You’re gonna be a big brother!”
But Roxie wasn’t so happy.
“But he’s already a brother,” she said. “He’s my brother.”
“Yeah, he is. And he still will be. And you’ll soon be a big sister!”
She wasn’t happy one bit.
“I know what that means,” she said. “You’ll have a baby and the baby will be the center of your world, and I’ll be left to eat out of the cooler again, just like I always am. Forgotten.”
We all spent a lot of extra time with her in the following weeks. She said it was temporary, and we’d forget her once the baby came, but she said she’d be a good sport and make the most of it, while she could.
And then came an even bigger change–at least, it felt bigger to me. Tani came home from work one day, excited, nervous, and a little sad.
“I got a promotion!” she said. “That’s the exciting part. But it’s a new job, in a new department. That’s the nervous part. And it’s in another city. In Brindleton Bay. That’s the sad part.”
Of course she’d take the job. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity. At first, she thought she’d rent an apartment and come home on weekends and vacations. It would be hard on Em, who’d developed a close relationship with Aunt Tani.
Then, Tani said she’d found the perfect house for all of us, up on a hill looking over the bay, with four bedrooms, room for the piano in the parlor, a fancy new kitchen, and plenty of room outside for the kids to play and for the garden. Maybe we’d even get a cat or a dog!
“But is it the right time to move?” I asked. I was in the third trimester, and I was huge and tired and already starting to nest.
“You can nest in the new home!” said Elder.
So, we packed lots of our stuff, and some we left in the old home, for Emma was going to move back in.
The last morning there, I looked around the kitchen. So many memories! So many dreams.
Was it what I wanted?
Of course it was! The new kitchen was glorious! Bright, roomy, with top-of-the-line appliances and a windows that looked out over the bay.
Roxie loved the house most of all.
“Thank you for my new house, Elder!” she said.
“This is my house,” she insisted, “but I’ll let all of you stay!”
Em and Tani loved the house, too. Em’s favorite room was Tani’s room upstairs in the back corner. She called it the girls’ room, and it’s where she, Roxie, and Tani spent hours sharing secrets and making plans.
But Free was not so happy. He missed our old house.
“The wind smells like seaweed!” he whined. “I can’t breathe.”
But a few days later, he raced home from school.
“I’ve got a very important job,” he said. “Teacher told me I was the one who gets to lead fractures class, because I know them best, since we had them at the old school.”
“That’s fantastic, Free!”
“Yeah,” he said. “So. I guess it’s a good thing we’re here. Else how else would the kids learn about halves and quarters?”
My favorite part, of course, was the garden. Not that I did much gardening during the few weeks after we moved in! I was so pregnant, so huge, so tired all the time.
But the garden provided a great spot for napping.
And then we had Caroline, who had my hazel eyes, and Elder’s blond hair. She was a lovely baby–happy, smiley, laughing. And Roxie was the happiest of all, since being the big sister was the most important job.
And now, here we are–in a houseful of kids, and even though it’s a new house, it’s become our home.
Now, we’re preparing for the next change, for Caroline is insisting on a kitty, and she’s not willing to settle for a plastic one!