I love the sound of ski pants walking down a hallway. Swoosh, swoosh. People are up early and heading out the door. Sunscreen? Passes? Gloves? The door slams.
I skied yesterday but today I’m staying back at the rental house with my friend and her two tween daughters. I don’t know when the word tween started. I don’t like saying it but it’s certainly more concise than saying the girls are something like nine and twelve. The older one has excellent eye contact and loves to cook. The younger one wears stylish baggy jeans and doesn’t like a lot of things.
Now, I am on the couch with a coffee and Ann Patchett’s new essay collection (“I don’t like nonfiction,” the younger girl had informed me). My friend is in the kitchen with the girls, making fried rice. I am overhearing them jump from topic to topic like bees collecting pollen. First, they review the order of ingredients. “First the oil and garlic, then the crunchies, then the softies.” An Ed Sheeran song is on, and the lyric is, “I will be loving you ‘til we’re 70.” The younger daughter wonders, “Until we’re 70? Then what?” My friend responds, “Then he’ll have a midlife crisis and an affair.” They add the crunchies.
Next up is animals. “Can people be charged for murder and go to jail for killing an animal?” My friend makes a thinking sound and finally says, “I’m not sure. There are animal protection laws but it’s not the same as killing a person.” The younger girl says, “True. Probably not as long. So, like a month?” The older girl says animals are better than humans and that statement hangs in the air along with the scent of garlic and onion. My friend breaks the silence, asking the older girl how many eggs to add.
I like being around people who enjoy the company of their children. The warmth and respect my friend extends to her daughters makes the room feel cozy and safe.
The four of us eventually go for a walk just as it begins to snow. The older one only agreed to the walk if we promised “good conversation.” The younger one lets us know she doesn’t like her jacket. We walk down to the lake and stare at the mountains for a while. We talk about the movie Encanto, best friends, and boys who can’t sit still.
Later I will say to my husband about my friend. “She is such a good mom. She really listens to them and doesn’t try to change their opinions. It was really fun being with them today.” He will ask me if I shared this with her and I will say no, but I should.