the good stuff

As is so often the case in the Mudd house, nighttime finds us with some little flash of inspiration on Maggie's part that somehow reluctantly involves me.

Tonight? Craft Night for Maggie and her friend, Tonya. It's something to do with printing. Imprinting? Plaster is involved. Casts, I believe they called them. And they need pretty cuttings of leaves.

And so here we are tip-toeing around the backyard mulch in the dark of night. Me, with scissors. Maggie, with a flashlight. Tonya, a small sprite of a human being.. braids and beads in her hair. A vaguely nervous flower child following our lead.

We have no light on the back porch. Something that I am sure is not up to code, but we don't really care. "This isn't our real house," we say every time we encounter some thing that has yet to be (and never will be) done.

"Ow!" Maggie steps and in the slight jostle of the light beam, I hear the crack of a twig, the surface-scratch of a toe on concrete.

"That one." Soon, she shines a light on a hanging plant.

"Yes, definitely a fern leaf," Tonya agrees from over Maggie's shoulder.

I snip our way across the backyard. A stretch of fern leaf. A late summer basil cluster. Oregano. Daisy. Thyme.

A moth tangles in my hair, confused by the beam from the flashlight and we all laugh when I scream a little. Okay, a LOT.

These are the times I love, but that's not so revolutionary. Parents everywhere love these moments when teens open the windows of their closed worlds to include us again.

We come inside and when the girls head downstairs, I say to Mags, "Did you already give me a hug goodnight?" Honestly, I couldn't remember. But she says yes.

"Oh," I say really only to myself as their feet tumble, impossibly sure, down the stairs, "I was hoping to get another one."

As she gets older, the last of's terrify me. Like..you know that old passage that one day you will put them down and never pick them up again. About time and it's speed. All of that. She's just growing so fast.

I turn from the sink and startle to see her crest the stairs again. Slim. Tall. Her hair a mess, but somehow perfect. She's taller than me now and that is bittersweet as well.

She leans in and gives me a hug for the second time. Long and tight. Then she turns and goes back downstairs.

Not a word. Not a goodnight. Not a 'love you', which is her shorthand norm. Not a kiss on the cheek.

But, I swear, I almost cried for how sweet it was. All the love that was in climbing back up a flight of stairs just because I mumbled something in passing. That's the good stuff. That's love as a verb. That's all the, all the, all the sweet stuff.

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