The spread of food on the table is her work, what she delivers to the evening. Glistening food, soft, stewy, juicy food, heaps and hills on every platter.
She doesn't see her birthday as a cause for celebration. She shows me a text on a cracked smartphone screen. It's from her mom, and it conveys disappointment and limp well-wishes.
A couple of the older kids find the infant activity center fascinating. One of them sits on the floor for a while and spins the transparent sphere that's full of colorful, pebble-like bits of plastic. He doesn't remember, but when he was a baby, he loved doing the same thing.
An assignment I've taken on becomes much larger and more complex than I had expected. It's anxiety-inducing. But I feel something in me rise up to claim control of the sprawling text and the web of citations.
When I tell him about my problem, his reaction is a relief. He doesn't become violently agitated, dismissive, or contemptuous. He doesn't act as if I've gutted him or as if I need to be pitied. He just listens. He accepts what I'm saying and acknowledges that it's a problem. Although there's no apparent solution, not at present, I feel less alone. It's amazing how powerful it can be when someone sincerely hears you out.
It's a hydra monster kind of argument. For every spiteful remark or bad idea I chop off, two more spring up.
It's time for him to take care of his reptiles. He sprays them with water, makes sure they're fed. It doesn't matter to him that they're made of plastic or rubber. (In a whisper, an older child asks me, "He does know they're fake, right?")