It’s been a while since I’ve lived with a child. The last one was you. You were two. You were male.
Chloe and Lark were up at five o’clock this morning. I heard them downstairs, speaking in a language I didn’t understand and bouncing a ball. From my bedroom on the second floor, I was fairly certain the ball in question was my exercise ball, a blue monstrosity so big ten basketballs could fit inside it. The noise the exercise ball makes when it strikes the ground is a resplendent POW sound. One single bounce is sufficient to wake a grumpy, middle-aged person. Twenty-seven bounces force the warm feet of said middle-aged person out from under the covers of a comfortable bed and on to a cold wood floor.
That early in the morning, it’s pitch black out. Griffin came running out of the kitchen as I came downstairs. He was in a complete lather of excitement. He detests the exercise ball.
When I arrived in the kichen, Chloe was striking the ball with her fist, bouncing it off the same wall where the china cabinet is, causing everything in it to rattle. Lark was sitting at the table with a book open in front of her. She was eating sauerkraut straight from a jar.
“Chloe!” I said.
Chloe grasped the ball in her small arms and turned in my direction. With her eyebrows raised, the expression on her face was just like Eve’s. At a more reasonable hour, this would have been comical.
“No bouncing balls before eight. You hear me?”
“Would you like some sauerkraut?” Lark asked me politely.
“No bouncing, Chloe. Say something back to me so I know you understand me.”
“I like these pickled ginger carrots of yours, too.” Lark dipped her fork into an orange jar next to the sauerkraut. “So tasty, Aunt Jane. Did you preserve these yourself? Thank you for having us stay here with you.”
“She understands,” Lark assured me. “You don’t need to yell at her.”
“I want her to put the ball away,” I said. “I need to be sure she knows the rule. I want her to say something. In English.”
Chloe sat down on top of the ball and rocked back and forth. She whispered something. I couldn’t catch what she said.
“Louder, Clo,” Lark said, noticing the expression on my face.
This time, Chloe spoke in a defiant voice barely above a whisper, “Pickled carrots are repulsive.”
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.