“How do I connect a ‘b’ to an ‘e’?” Summer’s voice jars me back to the present, and I look up with vacant eyes.
She repeats the question; I focus on the task at hand. She’s copying the words from Robert Frost’s beloved poem, “A Time to Talk,” using her newly learned cursive handwriting skills. It’s looking lovely, and I demonstrate the correct letter formation on a piece of scrap paper before returning to my own work.
“A Time to Talk”
by Robert Frost
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Today, while my kids finish their schoolwork, I’ve been coloring on an intricate pattern of paisley. I’m enjoying it, too. I haven’t colored in ages, and it keeps me nearby in case they need help. The oranges, pinks and blues that I’ve chosen gradually fill up the page, making the measured shapes look like art.
I give a small, satisfied sigh and feel my sentiment mirrored in the young girl beside me. We’re both working at something beautiful — something new. Through the open school room door, music from Ethan’s piano practice fills our ears and I feel that our world is at peace. Ordered shapes, curving letters, small black notes on a page ... there’s something about productivity that breeds contentment. Even the dog must agree: After determinedly tearing the skin off yet another tennis ball, she’s finally settled to sleep. There’s a time for everything, after all. And today is a time for being busy.
“Hey Mom?” Ethan pokes his head around the school room door. “Why is Lynn stopping by?”
I blink — and to my shame, heave a sigh. Beautiful Lynn, who keeps her horses in a field nearby, must be pulling in by the mailbox for a visit.
“Stay on task,” I command my crew, ashamed of the thought that perhaps she’ll just stay a moment. I rush to put the dog in the back, pausing on the way to transfer my laundry to the dryer. Visions of an early-finish school day disappear as I turn to greet my old friend.
“Welcome,” I say as she walks in. “Are you just here for a bathroom break?”
Lynn blinks, and I realize how abrupt I must sound. “Actually, I wondered if the kids would like to help brush the horses.”
She smiles at the back of Summer’s head, still bent obediently over her schoolwork page. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Suddenly, my stoicism crumbles. Summer’s been aching to lay hands on those horses for months, and now Lynn offers her a chance ... during school. Visions of other projects flit by and then fade while the words of Frost’s poem fill up my mind. There is a time to talk.
Taking a deep breath, I surrender to the gift of this unplanned moment. No more predictable lines or small notes. Just beauty — bold, messy and surprising.
“Come on in,” I say in a far more convincing tone. Slowly, “all the hills I haven’t hoed” disappear from my mind as I begin planning the lunch we can all share later on. Together, we step into the house ... for a friendly visit.
Sarah Coleman Kelnhofer writes from College Place, where she hopes to find and enjoy simple things — like chocolate — in the midst of a life filled with complexities. Contributions to this cause may be milk, dark, or white — and should arrive in childproof packaging. At the back door. Very quietly.