Avery watches as her mom packs her bag for yet another business trip. She's gone all the time and Avery is used to it now but she still wishes her mom would stay anyway. Kaylie, Avery's little sister, swings her baby Moana doll around in the living room so wildly it's a surprise she hasn't hit anything yet. She isn't quite seven yet but her birthday is coming up in July, a fact Kaylie tells people before she even says her name.
Avery's mom zips up the duffel bag and turns to hug her daughter goodbye. "I'll be back Sunday night, be good. There's plenty of food in the fridge but if you need something text your Aunt Marissa, she said she can drop by if needed. Look after your sister, try not to go outside too much and then just stay in the backyard". After pulling them each in for a hug and kiss, she walks out the door, locking it behind her.
Their father is away on a fishing trip but when he is home he is either working in his office with the door closed or watching tv on the couch, so it's not a new thing for the girls to be home alone. With both parents gone, Avery, who has been sixteen since December, is obviously in charge. She asks Kaylie if she is ready for her nap yet. "No, I'm not tired!" Her little sister says angrily. "Okay, but once you get cranky I don't care what you say". Turning on a show to distract her, Avery walks away to find something to do.
Avery doesn't usually think much of her parents not being around, but this last month has been different. With a new and contagious virus spreading around the world, international and even interstate travel is risky, but something that both her Mom and Dad's jobs still require them to do. Schools have started closing temporarily for a two week period and stores have had to work hard to keep up with the rush of people trying to stock their homes. She heard rumors that there were plans to restrict or at least limit air traffic in order to slow down the spread, but nothing has happened yet. The virus only really poses a threat to the elderly or anyone with respiratory issues, but anyone can get it. What Avery is most worried about is that if they decide to shut down airways before her parents get back from their trips, they will be stuck there.
She goes into the kitchen and starts making lunch for her sister and herself. Her mom was right, there is plenty of food, enough to feed the two kids for ages. But being in the kitchen floods back memories of hours spent here making cookies and birthday cake with her mom when she still had time to do that kind of thing. That's why she tries to avoid coming in here unless she needs to. Right as she begins to heat up water for ramen, there's a knock at the door. "What? No one ever comes to visit, who is at the door?" She thinks to herself. Avery wipes her hands on the towel hanging from the stove and walks over to greet whoever is behind the door. To her surprise, it's her mother. For a second both of them just stand there but then she walks in through the open door. "Mom, what are you doing? Did you forget something?" her daughter questions. "No, I didn't". Her mother responds. "My trip got canceled and I'm not supposed to go back to work for another two weeks at least. Your dad is being sent home early, he'll be back tomorrow!" Avery just stares at her, not knowing what to think. Kaylie comes to see what is happening and her eyes light up with happiness when she sees who it is. "You came back, Mommy! Do you want to play house with me?" Kaylie loves to play with her Disney barbie dolls just as much as she likes playing hide and seek. "I do, Kaylie, let me put down my stuff first though". Again, Avery is surprised. It's been a while since her mom has said yes to a request to play from Kaylie. She usually doesn't have enough time and tells Avery to do it instead.
The whole afternoon is peaceful and also the opposite of their typical afternoon. Everyone is in an unexplainably good mood, the house is busier than normal, and the smell of real food cooking floats around. If her mom wasn't here, Avery would be spending her Thursday afternoon in her room, reading or eating cheez-its. This afternoon, however, she is seen downstairs, watching as her mom reads picture books to Kaylie. It's a nice feeling and makes those involved realize that its significance is greater than thought when it's not there.
The next morning, the kids are up at 7:30, but not at 6:00 which is the time their mother had gotten up to go for an early run and to start a breakfast of crepes. "Good Morning!", Is her cheery greeting. "I'm almost done with these, go ahead and get the toppings out on the table please Avery". Avery does as she is told happily. Of course she would, the last time she can remember her mom making breakfast for them was on her fifteenth birthday last year. "Your Dad is going to be here a right before dinner, so I was thinking that we could go do something fun together like a bike ride or hiking, whatever you want!" Avery's mom says over her shoulder. Kaylie hears this and jumps up. "I want to ride my bike!" She yells. "Okay, let's do that". Avery agrees.
It was a perfect day. Regardless of the chaos the world is going into at the moment, nothing has ever been better for the Taylor family, at least in a home-oriented perspective.
By the time dinner rolls around, the girls have gotten back from their day trip and settled down in chairs, laughing about the random things that happened to them that day. There is again, a knock on the door, but this time everyone knows who it is and leaps up to open it. Kaylie beats them all but can't reach the lock above her head. Avery helps her and their Father walks in, looking confused. "What's this?" He asks. "Did something happen?" "No Dad, we're all just glad your back is all!" Avery smiles at him. He smiles back. "Glad to be back".
Dinner that evening was better then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years combined. The kids' dad pulled out his old grill and make some ribs for the feast, their mom made Brazillian cheese muffins called Pao de Queijo, and the girls (mainly Avery, Kaylie stirred the pot) made tapioca pudding for dessert. After they finished and were too stuffed to move, they debated about what they should do for "Family night", a tradition they used to adhere to but that was forgotten in the years.
The decision came down to spoons, which was everyone's favorite. Avery ran to get the game while the rest of them cleared to table to play on.
Needless to say, it was competitive. Anyone who has ever played spoons knows that after a couple warmup rounds, the pressure increase and the trust decreases. Every person has one eye on their deck, one on the spoons, and both hands flipping cards as fast as they can go. Kaylie is startlingly good at the game and wins nearly every round by silently sneaking her little hand out to grab a spoon while nobody is watching. Once, she had the rest of her family going for five minutes without getting caught. Avery can't stop smiling because her Dad is the worst at the game and couldn't win if his life depended on it. So when he shocked them all by getting his cards and stealing a spoon in time, she burst out laughing, soon echoed by the rest of them, leaving her dad to grin and say, "Y'all don't have to act so surprised, I can win if I want to". That just resulted in more laughter.
The night might have been trivial to someone else, it might not seem especially unusual or memorable, it might be plain to another, but to the Taylor family, it set a foundation for many more years of happy memories in a loving home. They had what they needed, they just hadn't recognized it's worth. From that night forward, they had each other's backs through not just the hard times, but the good ones too. Even when they were to busy to sit down and eat dinner together, they remembered how much they needed each other and made time when they could.