There’s an extra person in my house this week, my alternate child. It’s a long-standing running joke between our families.
Danny was born nine months before Sarah. They’d always been neighbours and friends, for ten whole years, right up until we moved. The neighbour part stopped – the physical location – but the friendship has never changed between us.
I’ve changed his diaper, fed him, kissed his boo-boos and disciplined him like he was my own. Imagine my surprise when we met him at the bus station and he towered over me. Was it only two years since we’d seen him last? We used to see them at least once a week, three or four times in the summer.
Lazy, hot afternoons, hayfields and wildflowers. His mom or me yelling out the window to come in and eat, watching movies in the living room, strewing toys down the hallway of their trailer. Wendy and I sitting at the kitchen table, talking the afternoon away. We alternated, who made the next pot of tea, who went out to see what the kids are hollering about now.
Now Sarah and Danny sit at the dining room table having much the same conversations. They found old cassette tapes, six years old and dusty, young but achingly familiar voices echo out the speakers. Give five children a tape recorder on a summer afternoon and see what happens. Save it in a drawer for later.
I talk to Wendy on the phone to tell her he made it safe, first long distance bus ride by himself, paid for with his own money he earned. She’s on her way out for the late shift, Dave isn’t home yet. Kendra graduates this year, and is looking at law school. Saving up her wages as much as she can. Vicki’s trailer is parked across the driveway from their own. Time marching on, without us there.
But still when I’m surrounded by and almost lost behind towering lanky half-adults, facial hair and pimples, giggles and wrestling… still when someone asks, “Are these all yours?” Danny grins at me out of his dark brown eyes, mussing up his straight black hair, and I answer like I always did, “Yeah, they’re all mine.”