Kiki and Link both had a youth activity. Patch had an awards ceremony to attend and Howard planned to take him. This left Gleek and I at loose ends. I briefly considered taking Gleek along to Patch’s event, but it is hard to be ten and see other people honored when you are not. Also a big room filled with people is guaranteed to wind Gleek up into a high energy state and then there would be frustration with a high probability of scolding. I wanted for her to have something special, just for her. However I also knew that if that if I preempted all her homework, there would be stress in the morning. So we needed special and routine all rolled into one. Everyone else departed leaving Gleek and I alone.
I consulted Gleek to see what she would like to do. Or rather, I spoke at Gleek while she fiddled with a bean bag. She tossed it to me. On a whim I tossed it back. Toss. Catch. Toss. Catch. It must have been one of the earliest games in the existence of humanity, yet it was oddly satisfying because I was feeling mellow and not inclined to run around getting things done. The game was simple, but Gleek and I were together, facing each other, both of us giving the game our full attention. She began perfecting a two handed fling. I began catching and throwing with only my left hand. I’m not particularly dextrous with my left, so I loved that magic moment when my brain somehow calculated exactly where to place my hand so that the beanbag would thunk right into the middle of my palm. Then I could, almost casually, curl my fingers around it. Catch.
Our evening needed something simple, like the game of catch. Something that would slow down both Gleek and I, because we are both prone to running too fast for too long.
“Pioneers used to play with beanbags.” Gleek said. She has been studying US History with a teacher for whom the subject is a passion. Her class has been grouped into Indian tribes, then into European immigrants, and now into colonies. In the coming months she will live through bits of revolutionary war, western expansion, civil war, industrial revolution, world wars, cold war, civil rights, and near to modern day. Gleek has been thriving on this diet of history. I keep hearing random bits about how life was in the past. There is a longing in Gleek’s voice as she tells me these things. She admires these times when life was slower. I think because she struggles to slow down in the face of modern information overload.
Between one catch and the next I knew what we needed.
“We’re going to have Pioneer homework time.” I said. “We’ll turn out all the lights and do your math by candle light.”
Gleek’s face brightened into a smile. “I’ll go put on my pioneer clothes!” and she dashed to find her costume.
Candle light imparts a hush to the room it inhabits. The edges of the room were dim, so Gleek and I had to draw close in order to see the words on the page. Without declaring it to be so, both of us dropped our voices quieter. Subconsciously we only needed to fill the lit space, not all the way to the dark corners. Gleek worked her way through the math happily. She only paused once when she remembered the candles she’d made with her Grandma. Those were fetched and lit as well. In moments of conversation we determined that a Pioneer Homework hour also needed and accompanying Pioneerish dinner. My original plan of buying Wendy’s did not fit with candles. After the math was done we hitched the horses to the wagon (my van) and drove over to the market (a grocery store.)
Gleek swished her pioneer skirt as she carried her basket through the aisles of the store. Her apron was tied neatly around her waist and her bonnet dangled down her back in best Laura Ingalls Wilder fashion. We were both carrying baskets instead of pushing a cart because Gleek deemed this to be more historically correct. Pizza, hot pockets, and yogurt were all rejected as foods that a pioneer would not have. Gleek’s desire for historical correctness was sorely challenged by the display of oreo cookies, but history won. We reached the check out stand with Swedish meatballs (some pioneers were Swedish), broccoli, and a pumpkin pie for sharing. At the last minute a desire for bubble gum won out over history, but it was stashed away to be consumed later.
We came home to a dark house and re-lit the candles we’d blown out. Gleek read while I prepared the food. Then we ate it together. I warned Gleek that Pioneer time would be over when the others came home. I wanted to forestall potential conflicts. Kiki and Link blew in the front door with a draft of cold air. They were startled by the candles, but urged us to keep them. “It’s nice.” Link said. “can we do it again tomorrow?” Patch agreed when he came home. Snack and bed were accomplished far more quietly than usual. All of us responded to the change in lighting. It isn’t something we can do every night, but I’m definitely stashing the idea into my bag of tricks for future use. I could use more lovely candlelit evenings.