Dear daughters, While I type this, I'm sitting in the living room. Rosie, you're crawling around the floor, picking up things to put in your mouth and pulling yourself up to stand along the couch. Your big sister is sleeping, but your nap ended early like it usually does, and so the toys are all yours for now. I've been watching the two of you grow over the summer, not just into your selves, but into each other. Rosie, your first year of life is wrapping up quickly as you, Edie, look forward to celebrating your third birthday with a pink mermaid cake.
"How old is that shirt you think?" I asked my husband as he came downstairs and scooped up both our babies to sit with him on his easy chair. "Well, you got it for me when I was 14 or 15, so, like, 20 years," he replied before he pointed out each hole and stain he and the shirt picked up along the way.
We sit at kitchen tables, on blankets in the park, around picnic tables at street fairs and on tailgates after a long morning in the field. We crack eggs in our pancake mix while we tell our kids about the time their grandmother baked coffee filters in an early morning batch, her attempt at a legendary April Fool's joke. We flip our burgers on shady decks while our friends talk about the time they got lost in Mexico City. We scoop up spoonfuls of peas and choreograph a song-and-dance routine, complete with a jazz-hand landing to convince our toddler to open her mouth.
Last week, Edie caught her first fish off of her great-grandparents' dock on a little lake in Minnesota. After her daddy helped her pull that bluegill out of the water using the little orange fishing pole with the button reel that has likely caught many grandkids' first fishes, she inspected its puckered mouth, ran her fingers over its scales, looked toward the shore and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Gramma Ginny, look! I caught a fish!"
Well, it's officially gardening season around here, which means the friendly competition I have with my dad about who is better at keeping the cows from eating the bean plants and pooping on the radishes has begun.
Throw open the doors and bring out that old book that props up your window. Let the sun in and the breeze blow through the house because I think spring might finally be happening after all. I wouldn't dare say for sure, except last weekend I picked some crocuses and a tick off the back of my neck, and out here those two things might be the most reliable indicators that sub-zero temps are on their way out, for a few months anyway. It's incredible what a 70-degree day will do to a person up here where winter drags its heavy feet coming and going.
We live on gravel roads that stretch like ribbons along pasture land dotted with black cattle. As we kick up dust beneath our pickup tires heading out to a chore or to meet up with a neighbor, we take for granted how these roads were built and why they're here. Because these days we're in a rush, driving faster than we should past newly made plans and history—some hidden and some still standing, weathered wood on crumbling foundations.
Out here on the ranch there are millions of tasks that require the proper attire. When I was growing up I don't think I ever saw our neighbor out of his Carhart bibs during the winter months. He would come in for a visit and sit at the kitchen table for an hour or so looking prepared to get up and go at any moment. Which he is — prepared, reliable and fearless. We know, because we've tested him.
This winter has been long enough. I woke up to another three inches of snow on our doorstep this morning, crushing my hopes of spring finally hanging up her coat here. I tried to complain as I poured the coffee, but I know it will fill the dams and make the grass green.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — I leaned in towards the mirror after my shower, hair fixed and on to my makeup, cursing the laugh lines around my eyes and the gray hair that accompanied them as I worked to hide the evidence of the years on my face. My 2-year-old daughter stood next to me, her blond hair wild from the morning. Each time I set something down on the counter — concealer, blush, eyeliner — she reached for it, as if mimicking my every move would help her unlock another door to growing up.