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Happy Contemporary Fiction

“I remember when it was just you and me,” I say, smirking a little as a five year old crawls  from the arm of the couch onto Josh’s head. He’s trying to read.

He smirks back, dog ears the page, and pulls a ball of arms and legs and energy down into his lap. “I remember when you used to nap!” he says, and lands a kiss on her chubby, giggling cheeks.

“Remind me she needs a bath later,” I say, rising to tidy up the living room while our child is momentarily distracted by her daddy’s Sunday morning stubble.

I remember the soft scratch of Josh kissing me awake on a Sunday morning. I smirk again. That wake up call would have come with coffee and around 10am - not a demand for pancakes and Peppa Pig at 6:13, like this morning. 

I drop a kiss on my husband’s head as I pick up the mug on the side table. I remember warm coffee, too, I think as I press 1-3-0 on the microwave. 

I set the cup next to my husband and pick up an afghan that has been relegated to the floor. It still smells like my grandmother.

I catch my daughter's pretty blue eyes and smile. “Hey did you remember we’re going on a hike today?“ I ask. She cheers.

We use the word “hike” loosely around here. The three of us will drive up to a well-worn path in Niagara Falls State Park. We will try to time our walk to turn around just before Addison starts whining, but we won’t, and the two of us will end up taking turns carrying her down the path all the way back to the car. At least we will get some exercise. 

We meander upstairs and the three of us get dressed - Josh and I in casual athletic clothes, Addison in a sparkly pink tutu, which I lovingly refer to as her “pick-my-battles-skirt.” If she wants to fake-hike in a sassy little sequined number, who am I to stop her?

“Don’t forget to grab her a water bottle,” Josh says. We both roll our eyes, remembering the last time we went for a hike, when we forgot and Addy moaned the entire way home as though she hadn’t had a sip of water in days. 

Josh always drives, and we always listen to Kidz Bop. Addison is singing along to “Photograph” in her booster seat, and I can barely remember what the Ed Sheeran version sounds like. 

This 31 minutes in the car is my time to plan our week. I pull out my journal - a to do list, really, but with a pretty gold and pink cover - and go over all the things we absolutely can’t forget to do. Grocery shopping, laundry, who’s driving Addison to school, who’s picking her up, who’s working late one night, who needs the home office for an early call, swim class, Irish dance, tennis… at least our list has a pretty cover….

“Ooo did you remember to pick up wine for dinner with the Kennedys on Tuesday?” I ask.

Josh cringes, annoyed with himself. I do not put a check in the bubble next to “wine for K on Tu” and I wonder if when I am dead someone will read these journals and think I was totally nuts.

“Mommy, remember that cool playground?” I hear from the rear. Josh and I side-eye each other. We hate the playground. We know we are supposed to love the playground, but we do not love the playground.

“I… can’t remember how to get there,” Josh tries. Addison explodes with laughter behind us, and we all know we are going to end up at the damn playground.

The spring sunshine feels like a dream on my skin, but as soon as I get out of the car, I can smell the mud on the trail. “Did we remember to pack extra shoes?” I ask. Now I’m the one cringing, annoyed with myself for forgetting.

Josh reaches down behind my seat and pops up with a tiny pair of pink unicorn boots. I want to make out with him then and there.

Josh and I step carefully along the trail, chatting about when we were in college, just up the road, and used to do the harder hike down to the gorge on weekends. “Remember that one time, when it got… late?” he says, grinning. Our eyes twinkle at the memory. We don’t say more because of little ears, and because we don’t need to. 

Those little ears are connected to a five year old who is stomping in a puddle, covering her pick-my-battles-skirt in little brown flecks. She is squealing with delight at this, but we know it’s probably time to turn around. 

“Wanna go reminisce with daddy and I at college?” I ask her. This is both a last ditch effort to dodge the playground, and one of my favorite parts of coming to Niagara Falls. Sometimes we go to the student dining hall for lunch, and eat crappy hamburgers and get soft serve ice cream and repeat stories to Addison she’s heard ten times.

Addison, however, knows my tactics well and reminds me about the playground. Then she asks Josh to carry her.

It’s harder to chat on the way back, so we get lost in our own thoughts. “Hey, Siri, remind me to send the Creekside report at 2pm on Monday,” I hear him say. The swirling water below has reminded him of something he needs to do for work.

When the playground comes into sight, Addison wriggles out of his arms, and takes off running. From behind, I take his hand, like I have a million times, and we follow her with our eyes. 

There’s a green bench to the left of the play structure and we sit down. Our sweet girl has already introduced herself to another little girl and they are comparing dirty unicorn boots. I flash a smile to the other girl’s parents so that they know we aren’t psychos, but I don’t say hello because I don’t want to talk to them. 

This is a rare quiet moment, and I lean my head on Josh’s shoulder. “Quiet” is a term we also use loosely around here, I think, as Addison’s voice sparkles in the background. I close my eyes and feel the warm sun on my face, the cool breeze in my hair.

“I remember when it was just us,” Josh says, putting his arm around me. I move closer to him and our daughter attempts to climb up the slide. Josh’s shampoo smells like mint, and I remind myself he’ll need more this week. “I remember making out in the gorge, and quiet mornings, and hot coffee, and not sitting on uncomfortable playground benches.” We both smile. “But I also remember how much we wanted this.” Addison sprints across the playground, laughing, her joy illuminating the air. Josh kisses my head. “I remember how much we wanted exactly this.”

April 04, 2022 16:07

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3 comments

19:27 Apr 17, 2022

Heartwarming story Shannon! You’ve powerfully captured the chaos and beauty of family life.

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F.O. Morier
06:15 Apr 14, 2022

What a nice happy story. Read it over coffee- am ready for the day now! Great!

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Shannon Patch
18:04 Apr 14, 2022

Thank you for your kind words!

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