Stuart peeked out from behind the bannister. "Get back upstairs Stuart, you time is not up yet." He is eight years old, thin and tow-headed. He has the most wonderful smile. Arthur and Patti, his parents talk between themselves about his punishment. We talk about disciplining kids. They ask about the boys, who are at their dad's house for the week and since moving, tend to stay at his house all week instead of wandering over and hanging out by themselves or with friends at my house.
Arthur is my brother and lives in Des Peres and works as a financial analyst and is a smart guy who has his own company. The chair I was sitting on was a chippendale. "The thing I liked best about Paris was the coffee. I miss the coffee." We both relate places to food. He is tall and thin, Patti is tall and thinner, she was once a CPA but now stays at home with their kids. I recently gave them an expensive bottle of wine (which means, not five dollars), bought from a far-away (i.e. not missouri) vineyard visited last year and was dropping off the paperwork (about the winery) found while unpacking and sorting more boxes. They are to hold and open in three years (it will be 'properly' aged at that time). Art is funny. Patti is nice. Their children are well behaved. Their children are young. They live below their means. Arthur, four years younger than myself, will have a child at home (God willing) until he is sixty (Lawrence just turned three).
The phone rings and is picked up. Audrey walks into the dining room, "It's Aunt Amanda"..."Tell her I'm here.." I say and there is more talk between father and daughter and mother. I sit back and listen, enjoying the normalcy of this intact family. Audrey is going to visit with Ella, her cousin and she will ride over with me. She goes to get dressed and returns in full fourth of july regalia (as only a young girl can do).
On the drive, we visit, which is nice. My sister and her family live a short distance down Manchester. She tells me about her school and how she has already met her class for this next year and her language is prim and proper and "not to be mean, but.." and for some reason we talk about 12/12/2012. "Does that scare you?" (when people mention the end of the world).."Yes, sometimes."..."What do you think about it?".."Well, dad says that maybe it will be the return of Jesus."...Her dad doesn't really believe that it will be the end of the world but to allay a child's fears and all.. and she skips conversationally from one subject to the next, resilient (yet still). Then we are pulling into my sister's neighborhood of nice little brick houses and cul-de-sacs.
The day is languid. (There is a short drive to the airport to pick up a car from a friend of my sister who is driving in from Jefferson City and flying out to Italy. She will be gone for three weeks and doesn't want to do long term parking.) The girls (cousins) visit, scissor up paper cut-outs. Amanda and I talk. The air is heavy with heat and humidity. A late afternoon shower cools things off. Amanda grills. I lay in the hammock. Audrey is returned to her parents house for their trip to her Aunt Mo-Mo's house (Molly). They will watch fireworks and do the festival thing at Eureka Springs. We will do the short drive (about three minutes sans traffic) to watch the Webster fireworks. Amanda had a difficult time choosing between Webster or Kirkwood, they are nearly equidistant. We do Webster, taking folding chairs and joining the throngs of people who congregate on sidewalks, and in small parking lots. Fireworks are shot-off in the surrounding neighborhoods. Police show up. An antique fire-engine passes with its horn softly whoo-whooing. The people on top smile and wave, they have just come from a parade somewhere else.
We hear the deep boom-boom of the Kirkwood fireworks while waiting. There is a boom and a puff of smoke seen from where we sit. We wait. The children (Spencer and Ella) read books and shuffle their feet. Another boom and a puff of smoke half-an-hour later. We wait. It is too dark to read. We sit talking as other conversations buzz around us. Kirkwood has their finale. We can hear it, not see it. Finally. The Webster show begins. We leave early due to people(me) having to use the facilities and none being present. I apologize profusely. My sister apologizes for not telling me about the Schnuck's down the way (I only knew about the gas station, closed) having walked there earlier. We hear the grand finale of Webster, but don't see it. We apologize to each other again. We pull into her drive, I run into the house.
The drive to Columbia is long and dark. There is the usual stop in Warrenton for gas at the EZ station just off the highway. Years ago I worked in St.Louis at Barnes Jewish and invariably stopped in Warrenton for a fill-up and coffee. It would be the morning after working three twelve hour night shifts. Huxeley (my dog) would be on my lap or curled asleep in the passenger seat. During the drive there would be that fight, that argument with sleep. Tonight there is none of that, just the fear of running out of gas on a dark highway.