Just last week, as she came down the stairs from her home office, Michele observed her husband and daughter at breakfast. As always, Dan had taken the chair directly across from their daughter, so Savvy could watch TV. It was a bad habit, but it had started back when they were grasping at straws to get her to eat, and a cartoon served as a useful distraction. Savvy would watch TV and open her mouth at the right time, when somebody sitting next to her held a spoonful of puree up to her mouth; everybody was happy.
That was when she was a baby. Now she practically wouldn’t eat unless a cartoon was on.
But she was only three; plenty of time to work through that. Eating was the priority right now. And this got her to eat.
So he sat across from her, to supervise and instruct as she fed herself. If he didn’t supervise, she would skip out on the vegetables – or try to; if he didn’t instruct, she might not eat at all. After a while, the seating arrangement was pretty much permanent, for all meals. Savvy on the corner, Michele next to her, and Dan across from her. Like all parents of young children, it worked best if the kids were surrounded.
Dan was strict but playful. From her office upstairs, Michele could hear their frequent lunch or dinner battles as she took a late conference call. Mostly, it was Dan’s raised voice as Savvy stubbornly refused to eat the vegetable of the day. Shouts of “Get some green beans! Green beans!” Echoed up the stairs. “Not chicken. Put that down. Put it down! Get the green beans! Green beans!”
Just as often, though, she would catch them playing at the table while she cooked. Simple things that don’t matter and wouldn’t be remembered, but which still warm a wife and mother’s heart. Like now.
From her vantage point by the stairs, Michele had stood, clutching her favorite coffee mug, watching them play at the table, waiting for her. Every birthday, Christmas, anniversary, mother’s day, Dan would order a big ceramic coffee mug with a picture of Michele and Savvy on it. By now she had quite a collection: a photo of them at the zoo, another one from an event by the river, another from when they were picking flowers in the yard. Each photo became its own big coffee mug. It was a ceramic photo album. They were all cute, but the Christmas mug was her favorite. It was an impromptu photo, taken one day when Dan walked in after Michele had just popped a Santa hat onto Savvy’s head. Savvy was only about nine months old at the time. She didn’t have anything but peach fuzz for hair yet, but she had the big eyes and the dimples, so the Santa hat looked especially cute. Michele was holding her, so both of his girls were in the picture. It made a cute mug.
As Michele stood in the dark by the stairs, she held the mug as she watched her husband play with their young daughter. The wars over green beans were certain to happen later, but at the moment the warring vegetable factions were allies. Savvy watched a cartoon while working on her pancakes; Dan worked on his computer.
But Dan noticed that Savvy’s chair was a bit too far away from the table. Food that she dropped would fall onto her dress – it was always a dress these days, even at breakfast; and the frillier, the better. But those princess dresses don’t clean up as easily as a t-shirt and shorts.
Reaching under the table with his foot, Dan hooked the bottom of Savvy’s chair and slowly pulled it closer to the table. The wooden chair legs made a loud noise as they dragged over the tile. Savvy looked around in wonderment. Dan continued to stare at his computer.
“Is that you doing that?” Savvy asked her father.
“Hmm?” he replied, not taking his eyes off the computer screen. Michele watched silently from the steps. She could barely hear them over the TV noise.
Savvy looked down at the legs of the chair. His foot was already gone. “What is doing that?” she asked.
“What’s doing what, honey?” Dan asked with extra curiosity.
“What was making my chair move?” she asked him again.
He smiled and shrugged his shoulders in a cartoonish fashion. “I don’t know!”
She smiled back. “Is it magic?”
“Daddy!” she exclaimed, pointing a pink plastic fork at him. “It’s you!”
“It’s magic!” he protested as she leapt off her chair to attack his feet.
From then on, whenever the chair would move at meal time, Savvy would ask if it was magic. Dan would always respond, “Could be!” Even better, as her own legs got longer, Savvy could slide down in her seat and push back Dan’s empty chair. The loud noise of the chair’s wooden legs sliding across the tile floor always got everyone’s attention.
Savvy would always offer the same happy explanation: “Look, it’s magic!”
– a sample from the upcoming novel “An Angel On Her Shoulder” based on true events. You’ll hear about it here first, fans!
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