May 27

Okay, so, looking back, I can see I got a little carried away there with the ecstasy and analogies and speechifying, and never actually got around to telling you what happened with the kids! I sat there in full-on painter brain (which you saw splattered all over yesterday’s email) on that truck for a good two hours. Then, just as it was getting dark, a young woman carrying a shopping bag hurried over to the kids, who hadn’t moved the whole time, and called out, “Phil, you’re such a good boy!” She wished me a good evening, I said thanks, you too, walked over, and asked her whether she was their mom? She said yes, and gave the older child a slice of Wonderbread while she picked up the baby and kissed him tenderly. “I told Phil to watch the baby,” she said, “while I took my oldest boy shopping in town for some bread and sugar and a new crock pot.” (I could see all of these in the shopping bag, which was sagging open.) “I wanted to make my little Henry [that’s the baby] some soup for dinner tonight, but would you believe, my oldest, what an animal, broke our pot yesterday fighting with Phil over who got to lick the bowl.” I asked her where the oldest was, and she was just saying he was running around in the meadow chasing a couple of geese when he jumped up beside her and handed the middle kid a hazel branch. We chatted a bit more, and I learned that her father was the principal at the village school and that her husband was off on a trip to Vermont to collect some money he’d inherited from a relative. “They tried to scam him,” she said, “they wouldn’t take any of his calls, so he went down there himself. I hope he’s okay — I haven’t heard from him in a few days.” I had a hard time tearing myself away from her. I gave each of the kids a dollar bill and gave her one for the baby, to buy him some bread to go with the soup next time she went into town, and we split up.
I’m telling you, Will, when I feel like I’m close to the edge, it soothes the chaos inside me to see someone like that, who moves happily and placidly through her little world, just trying to make it through the day, who can watch the leaves fall and all it makes her think is, oh, winter’s coming.
Since then I’ve spent a lot of time out there. Those kids have gotten really comfortable around me; they get a bite of my croissant when I’m drinking coffee and a couple of french fries in the evening. I’ve promised them a dollar every Sunday, and if I’m not there when church gets out, the lady at the café knows to pay them for me.
They trust me, they tell me everything, and I get such a thrill out of how excited they get and how unselfconscious they are when they’re running around playing with other kids.
It’s taken me a lot of work to convince their mother that no, they’re not bothering the nice man :)