Some felt imprisoned by the four walls of grey steel, perpetually suspended in the air and forbidding escape. Others saw the diamonds shattering on the windows, the roof, blades of emerald grass, and rejoiced in the rainbows the prisms cast. The vast majority, however, only experienced precipitation, and their bare-headedness declared that they took no notice of the constant event—the sum of fall, winter, and spring on the northern Pacific coast.
Then a trifecta of days interrupted routine. The steel walls recoiled upwards, the diamonds melted away, and the rain—why, it evaporated in the rays of the spring sunshine! Enamored by the light, a familial quartet gathered in the bloom and the the bright.
The boys are barefoot and bare-armed; the girls are ensconced from head to toe in knits, wraps, and weaves. With tea diffusing its fragant aroma and kitty claiming his caresses, the four youths take turns speaking aloud a narrative. Some in clear tones like ringing bells, with voices and accents that draw the listeners in, conduct their part. Others, in murmured whispers that rippled and swam, take their turn. To the casual observer, a varied group of young people—one boy flung down on his back, his arms spread wide, his eyes closed in supreme enjoyment and concentration; another girl huddled in her fuzzy scarlet blankets like a camel in Alaska; a blond boy reading quickly and strongly, twirling the mane of the cat; and a girl overseeing it all and mending a pink dress meanwhile.
But to the insiders—to this group of siblings who know each other better than anyone else, so much more. Through two chapters, they read aloud, practicing their voices, continuing a morning tiff, correcting each other’s pronunciation, and helpfully defining words. They relish brother’s newfound bass tones, admire the youngest’s cheerful and willing fetching of any needed article, and breathe relief when the sisters' dispute melts into forgiveness. They know each other’s beginnings and middles and pray with unmitigated hope for each other’s ends. They dance in the steely rain and laugh in the sunshine. Yes, they fight and make up with equal passion. They read together—oh, yes. They read together. Three grade levels and a college student—something that should never happen on a school day!—reading together. And by the end of the two chapters, one of the boys is shivering, the tea mug is dry, and the afternoon sun is waning.
They all go their separate ways then—school for one, cello lesson for another, imaginative adventures for the youngest, and dinner preparations for the oldest. But as she walks back down the stone path, the girl smiles peacefully to herself about the joys of a literary afternoon with her siblings. Who knows how many of them will be left?
Photo Credit: Jungle Tales by James Shannon. Courtesy of deflam.