Jim can't seem to settle on a project. Two weeks into summer and already he's started six or seven things: mending the deck, collecting beer bottles to brew, scavenging pipe for an outdoor shower, stuff like that. He waits all year for these precious 10 weeks of summer. His wife, Cherrie, doesn't like to travel, so they make a vacation of being together at home. It is enough.
This afternoon Jim's in the garden. The peas have come and gone, the tomatoes are in flower. Green beans and broccoli are ready to be picked and there are enough cukes to start a batch of pickles. Jim just scratches his head.
It has been a difficult year. His dad died in April. He almost made it to spring. Spring in northern New Hampshire doesn't really start until May. Maybe early June. His dad lived for his garden. He helped Jim put this one in when they bought this place twenty years ago. He'd love the look of this broccoli. He'd know what to do with all the beans.
Jim's kids run wild. He and Cherrie are comfortable in chaos. One comes out onto the porch, dreadlocks half way down his back, tattoos up and down his arms. Jim remembers this boy at three, naked with a toolbelt slung low on his hips. He spent a whole summer like that. Helping. Jim loves his kids.
Two of his teenage daughters sit at the kitchen table. He can see their heads bent toward each other, maybe playing cards, maybe talking. He wonders what they're saying. There's four teenagers in the house, though technically Crater's 21. The kid with the dreads. The "creative" one. He wonders if they'll all stay friends when they're grown and gone. Not far off now. Homeschooled through high school, he suspects they're closer than many siblings. But that's all Cherrie's doing. He's there to gather the pieces every evening. To laugh and shake his head.
Jim's dad so enjoyed these grandkids of his. His mom never met them. "Let 'em be kids," his dad always said. Jim and Cherrie have definitely done that.
The kids all spoke at their granddad's memorial. Jim was glad about that. His dad's friends were mostly dead, so it was a small group. Lively, but small. They scattered the old man in the duckpond out behind his place in New Hampshire. His dad would have loved that night. They all sat around a big fire and told stories.
Jim's grateful for his kids. They're his friends now. His only friends really. The most interesting people he knows.