Category Archives: Boys

I Was Just Excited

I knew as soon as I saw the light bar I was getting pulled over. A quick glance at the speedometer showed 70 and the two-lane was empty of vehicles minus mine and the Trooper’s.

I had my license, insurance, and a smile ready by the time he got to my window.

I was just excited I explained.

We were on our way to celebrating a weekend away for my boy’s birthday.

My eldest. My first-born.

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Long weeks until we’d been able to finally get away, but we were all getting to go now and wasn’t I thankful for this family God gave me?

As I waited for the Trooper to run my information, I remembered back to my dispatching days when there was another time I’d been pulled over.

Just over fifteen years ago it’d been.

I was excited then too, and as my red truck came to a stop on the side of the road that day, I laughed at the irony of being pulled over by a co-worker on my afternoon off.

His big smile in my window had matched mine and I showed him the picture from the ultrasound appointment I’d just left and told him “I’m sorry JohnJohn. Are you going to give me a ticket? I didn’t even realize I was going fast, I’m just so excited.”

His laugh is still in my ear and he told me “Of course I’m not gonna give you a ticket. Slow down though, you want to live to see that baby grow.”

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That day was two years before his life was cut short, and when the Trooper comes back with a smile and a warning I think of my fallen friend and offer up the unopened bag of chocolates I’d just bought at the store because it was the nicest thing I had to offer as a thanks for keeping me safe and a thanks for wearing the blue and a thanks for reminding me.

I want to live to see my babies grow.

He couldn’t take my candy back to the station, but he could take a thank you and I slow down for the rest of the trip and think of John and years and babies and gifts.

The baby that we were celebrating today was the baby I was carrying then and how does fifteen years go by just like that?

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How do friends come and go and babies grow up and grow mustaches and muscles and compassion and how does cancer change lives forever and tragedy take loved ones too soon and how do wrinkles appear even as hair disappears while faith grows strong and steady and quiet and true, and how does it all happen in a way that makes you feel like you’re flying when you don’t even realize you’re going that fast?

And the only possible conclusion is the same now as it was then…

I was just excited.

But I’ll slow down again.

I’ll remember my reminders.

I’ll stop when I need to and listen to the warnings.

I’ll smile back at the friendly faces in my window.

I’ll cherish friends while I have them here.

I’ll show my thanks with what I have.

And for all the days I’m given on this journey…

I’ll live to see my babies grow.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

~

In Memory of John P. Watson 

EOW 12/25/03

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Bigger and Tireder and Come Unto Me

He said Come unto Me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.

He didn’t say Come every Wednesday or Come unto me even though you’re exhausted or Come unto me or else we won’t be friends anymore.

He said Come unto me all you who are weary…

And they don’t tell you in the pregnancy books that there comes a time, way past the first roll-over time, way past the sitting up time, way past the solid foods time, and wayyy past the first-steps time…

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There comes a time when it seems a little like it did when there were babies in the house, and a little like it did when there were toddlers in the house…

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But it’s all a little bit different and a little bit bigger.

Because they’re bigger.

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You should be tougher but you don’t feel much tougher.

In fact, when you talk to mamas just a wee bit older than you, you might whisper it to them quiet and confidentially and maybe even with a hint of a doubt in your tone while you secretly hope that maybe they’ll understand.

You really hope they’ll nod knowingly and that they won’t tell you that you’re wrong. You hope they’ll hug you and say OH HONEY YES.

It’s harder than it was.

It’s just a different hard.

You feel somehow weaker than you did even though you never ever thought you’d feel weaker and more vulnerable than you did with no sleep and no makeup and milk streaming down your chest and soaking through your shirt and onto your mattress and into your days while the beautiful baby just screamed and screamed and constantly needed a new diaper.

You’re tired.

And that just seems so wrong because they sleep all night now, a long teenager’s sleep late into the morning for their growing bodies if your day can spare it, so a full eight or nine is your delight, and most mornings even a leisurely cup of coffee is yours before they arise…and they do work now, real work that makes yours easier.

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But they take more of you now.

More mind muscle. More money. More miles.

They take up more space.

In your house.

In your head.

In your heart.

There are more of them and they are bigger and it’s just all bigger and a little more overwhelming but you’re older now and wiser now so you handle it better but handling it better makes you tired sometimes and it’s a different kind of tired.

And sometimes coming unto me looks a lot different than what a mama thought it would way back when they still napped in the middle of the day and still needed you to buckle them into their car seat.

A quiet time isn’t always ever a quiet time, and me-time doesn’t work and long ago when they were toddlers I cut out a magazine piece that said me-time comes when the babies are grown and now that mine are almost there I see.

I see how it is that I don’t really feel like taking that me-time anymore unless they force me, and now that more than two of them fill a room while college and jobs and future fill their horizon…

I’m glad my me-time revolves around them.

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It means saying no sometimes.

It means that I actually had more time for friends when my babies were babies and we could all get together over diapers and coffee and Cheerios and Boppies.

It means that pulling in to them instead of pulling away needs to be my daily priority.

It means that I may lose outside opportunities in order to stay inside the circle of these years.

It means that my growth might actually be watching them grow and that is what my job is right now.

It means that I might have to work through the new ages and stages and grow right along with them.

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It means that I might be lacking for folks outside of here and seem shallow when in truth, I’m growing deeper and broader in my care and attention.

But a mama still needs come unto me and thankfully, He stands and He knocks, and what a comfort…what.a.comfort. to know He’s there.

That He is always there.

That when my quiet time is driving-down-the-road time, He doesn’t abandon.

He’s there.

That when I’m extra busy or frazzled or full, He doesn’t condemn.

He invites.

That when I forget, He doesn’t write me off.

He gently prods.

That when I’m exhausted, He doesn’t shame.

He comforts.

That He loves.

That He forgives.

That He encourages.

That He holds.

That He stays.

And that unlike this time that rushes…that goes…that hurries…

He doesn’t.

He still says come unto me and when I’m weary and when I’m burdened and when I’m heavy laden…

He doesn’t pressure but He waits.

And He gives rest for my soul.

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails and never gives up it never runs out on me…your love…it’s your love…

On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there’s nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

Your love never fails and never gives up it never runs out on me…your love…it’s your love…God it’s your love.

~Jesus Culture

Short and Accurate Post on Life With a Teen Boy

Snapshot of a Week in the Life of Being the Mama of a Teen Boy:

Scenario 1: (Watching the garbage truck pull out)

Me: “Well hm. I guess I didn’t need to go into all that with the garbage guy. Sometimes I think I just talk too much.”

Teen boy: “Yeah.”

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Scenario 2: (In the hay field)

Teen boy: “Man mom, a cold lemonade sounds good right now.”

Me: “You want ME to fetch drinks? Hey I’m buckin hay here, not fetchin drinks. I’m not just a pretty face ya know.”

Teen boy: “No. You’re not.”

Me: “Uhhhh?”

Teen boy: “You’re the PRETTIEST face.”

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And that, folks, pretty much sums up how it is living with the wild and growing creature we all call a Teenager.

 For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Proverbs 4:2-3

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The Day in Which My Boy Turns 14 and I Write a Poem on My iPhone

He’s tall like the mountains today.

The wind moves the world
while the sea roils black.
And time, like the tide…
Rolls on.

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The Crow of the Rooster

Way back when, my husband used to call me and one of my besties a coupla’ hens.

We may have sounded a bit like em when we’d get to clucking about life and all the funny stuff that comes with it.

I never took it in a bad way though…it was more of an endearing little compliment, especially because his eyes would sparkle when he’d smile at us.

Like he thought we were cute when we’d get to giggling.

I don’t think it was an endearing compliment though, when one of the gentlemen on a neighborhood chat page called a handful of us women “hens in a house”.

Something tells me his heart wasn’t swelling in adoration over the feminine laughter that can tend toward a cackle when something’s really funny.

No, I didn’t get the impression he was complimenting us at all.

We were disagreeing with him you see.

And not everyone likes it when you disagree with them.

That’s when they’ll resort to name calling.

And that night, as I read his comments and the ones that followed from various hens, I couldn’t help but wonder why no one mentioned the very first thing that popped into my mind when I read his comment.

Yep, you know what’s comin’…

Roosters.

I sure don’t want to focus on this poor guy too long because some folks just have a knack for saying what’s on their mind without thinking it through. And, because I’m a writer, I always have to think things through twice; once before I say them, and again before I write them. So I just sat on his comment a while and thought I’d let it slide on by like we all do when someone opens their mouth and lets something rude slip out.

But as I read the thread, the irony of his analogy did make me giggle as I knew there were at least two of us in the chat group who are die hard chicken farmers.

He may or may not know how much us farmer types admire hens and how hard they work, as if their industriousness is bred right on into them, or how entertaining they can be with their individual and adorable poultry quirks, or how loyal they are to their farm and their offspring…but it was funny to me that what he thought was an insult, several of us could actually view as a compliment.

As I lay my head down that night, and then again the next morning, I couldn’t help but write in my mind (because that’s what us writers do even when we don’t realize it don’t we?) about all the different traits of chickens.

And then my thoughts settled right in on the three different kinds of roosters.

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So my son, he knows roosters. One of the types we have on our barnyard right now are called bantams. They’re tiny. Wittle bitty guys that fit in the palm of your hand. One is fluffy and purty, a silkie, the other has little snow-shoe feet with feathers fluffing off of them and he tiptoes around like a little old man on the ice. He’s a high falutin’ D’Uccle.

The funny thing is, they don’t know they’re little. They strut around like they’re big shots on the barnyard and when they see something they don’t like they’ll puff up and get ready to let out a big ol’ crow. Except their manly COCKADOODLEDOOO coming out of their itty bitty body sounds more like a COCK-UH-UHHNNNNnnnn like they started to yell but just ended up clearing their throat instead.

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We call these roosters “the babies”. They’d probably die in disgrace if they understood, they think they’re roosters after all, but as my son says, “Mom, they’re so cute. They can’t even reach the perch to sit with the hens. I have to pick them up and set them up there just so they can go to bed with the flock at night.”

We laugh at how cute our little roosters are…trying to be just like the big boys but really, not even being big boy enough to have a big boy walk or talk.

 

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Then there are the roosters we all think of when we think “ROOSTER”.

That’s right, the mean and nasty ones. We had one once but he doesn’t live here any more. In fact, he just doesn’t live period.

See, Sir Lolly started out nice enough. Just another little cockerel in the flock. He played nicely with the hens, he wasn’t mean to the kids, and he was growing into a real gentleman.

But when Lolly started to get his spurs, he started to turn mean, and no amount of sweet talk from his owner, my littlest boy, would change him. My youngest even tried preaching to Lolly. He’d climb up into the bed of his Daddy’s pickup truck and give Lolly the lo down on the greatest stories of all. He’d worked his way all the way up to the Ten Commandments but Lolly just got nastier. My boy’s Sunday school teacher told him to just keep at it and that once Lolly heard about Jesus, he’d probably repent from his bad behavior. (We kinda love our chickens round here.)

But Lolly never heard the gospel message from my little preacher because one day, after a whole lot of bluffs and charges and noise and false alarms, Lolly charged my big farmer full on.

And then my big farmer had a decision to make.

If Lolly would go after the biggest of us, he had officially become a danger to the smallest of us.

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So, late one night, my husband removed the danger from our barnyard, and between a few tears and a truck ride and a cold slushie, he explained to our little boy about how, as man of the barnyard,  sometimes a farmer has to do hard things to protect those who are in his care.

Lolly was too mean for his own good. He used his spurs for nastiness and all it did was hurt others and end ugly.

After a sweet little funeral for our too-mean rooster, we left the barnyard to the hens for a while and they did okay. Hens are like that. They just carry on and do what needs doing.

But as is with farming, birds soon change hands and here came a rooster and we all watched him for a bit to see if he’d be a Sir Lolly wanna-be.

The kids even named him Monster, thinking he would be.

But he wasn’t.

He was sweet.

He let he hens eat first.

He kept the boundary line of the barnyard intact by patrolling several times a day.

He shuffled all the hens to the safety of the woods line when there was danger afoot and we realized one day he often turned his head up to the sky and watched when a raven or an eagle was flying over.

We thought maybe when his spurs grew out he’d turn.

He once acted like he wanted to chase my daughter but when she stood her ground and looked him in the eye, he retreated and went back to doing his job and he let her do hers.

Once he reached maturity, we realized he was going to be a b-I-g rooster. With b-I-g spurs. They are well over an inch long now.

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But guess what?

In all the time we’ve owned this rooster, he’s never once used them on us.

He’s done a fine job of protecting his hens, his barnyard, and himself, but he’s never once been needlessly nasty or mean.

His rare displays of his strength come with a reason.

They are short-lived.

He uses his spurs only when he needs to.

He could have a whole barnyard in fear and dread of him but he doesn’t.

He simply does his job and lets everyone else do theirs.

What kind of rooster are you?

My big farmer husband is teaching our boys to be like Monster.

One who is gentle and lets others do their job.

One who doesn’t feel the need to show their spurs.

One who knows their strength but chooses not to strut it.

He is teaching them to be men who serve gently, respect others, keep an eye on those in their care, protect against danger, and show their strength in times of peril.

I want to be that kind of critter.

The kind who has your back.

The kind who will fight the enemy and protect his own fiercely, but is always kind and gentle with his family and friends and neighbors.

The kind who isn’t mean.

The kind who doesn’t need to be lifted up to sit with their peers.

The kind who knows how to talk AND walk.

The kind who doesn’t show his spurs just for show.

And with roosters like that on the barnyard, it’s a pretty good job being a hen in the house.

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The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.
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Kids and Clothes, and Mama, It’s Delightful

I used to be so tough.

A basket full of four children six and under would see me steely faced, jaw clenched, muscling my semi-truck cart through the store in firm, mama determination as I made my way through aisle after aisle with purpose and grit.

Now though? I’ve been at this shopping-for-a-family gig for awhile and quite honestly, I’ve kinda come to hate it. My once-a-month grocery shopping trips and Amazon have pretty much spoiled me for trips to the store, and lest you call me weak and wonder how I escape the mall at back-to-school time, let me remind you that we homeschool so clothes shopping isn’t a regular occurance round here.

But today I went clothes shopping with two of my lovely children who, coincidentally, happened to run out of everything to wear all at once. When I looked at my boy yesterday and realized his one good pair of jeans now had two blown-out knees and one blown-out crotch, I came to the obvious conclusion that it was time to take them to the department store. Not even Amazon Prime was gonna be fast enough to get clothes for my kid to wear to church tomorrow, so there was one solution and I knew it wasn’t gonna be pretty.

 

Somehow, in thirteen years of mommying, I’ve never once clothes shopped at the department store with more than one of my children with me. The thrift store, surrre. But that’s different. At Sally’s there’s the fun little toy section where the kids can quietly play among all the busted up second hand toys that they think are all brand new and fancy because they’re NOTHING like we have at home Mama, and while they enjoy their holiday time on the Island of Misfit Toys, I can peck carefully through the racks of second-hands and find the perfect ones to bring home at a bargain price for my little people’s dresser drawers.

But today wasn’t a Sally’s day. Today was a day when they needed new clothes and they needed them now. Today was a day when I needed to know that they would walk into the store owning one pair of pants (albeit holey), two stained-up shirts, and three single socks, and walk out with enough clothes to look presentable for at least the rest of the week, but more aspiringly, the rest of the year.

So off we went. They were excited on the way over, no one had to climb into the way-back back seat, and everyone got a turn at talking since there was only three of us in the truck.

Just my two kiddos and me and there we were, clothes shopping.

And after filling up the cart with a healthy, hefty stack of girlie possibilities while brother acted the gentleman by waiting patiently on the beige pleather armchair (the kid-version of holding the purse), I pondered exactly how different these two children are.

One is very deliberate. She likes to think things through. Extensively. And she has very high sensory preferences when it comes to anything touching her body. Tags slay her. And sleeves that don’t reach her wrist bones can ruin her day. Tight things are of the devil. So are low collars. Especially V-Necks. Crew necks are okay but don’t even mention the words scoop neck. Or wool. Or anything that is not as soft as your favorite pair of softie jams. Or that is not one of her favorite colors.

 

Within seconds of parking the pile in the dressing room hallway, I remembered all these things from all the Sunday-morning fashion fiascos and I worked her pile into a color-coordinated assembly-line system of trying on structure and order, making her name each item with a No, Maybe, or Yes.

My other one built a pile of shirts in his size, ripped off his clothes and went one by one through the stack, yelling YES! for his favorites before the hem of the shirt even touched the waist of his underwear, or tearing them off within a millisecond if he didn’t care for it, tossing it into the No pile before the hair had even settled back onto his head. I don’t think we even got to the code-word game in his little room.

Four hours and hundreds of dollars later, I about laughed in mad-woman hysterics when the cashier told me that the 25% off Doorbuster coupon I’d been clutching tightly in my fist for the past three hours had expired two hours before, promptly at 1 p.m. just like it says right there in the small print ma’am.  And then, I near melted to the floor in a puddle of mama mush when the big red honking siren-light at the exit doors went off.

The angst.

I dragged my children and my bags back to the checkout line where the sweet elderly clerk went through every.single.item until she found the offending black magnet tag.

It was then that my son told me he hadn’t even eaten breakfast before we left the house.

My composure threatened to crack when I heard that, so I pasted on the everything’s greaaattt Sunday morning church smile at alllll the folks I met on the way out the doors and at the nice drivers who saw me clutching my children’s hands and bags of new wardrobe and figured I was either a sweet, smiling mom who needed a break in traffic or that I was a maniacal Mrs. Joker who was just about to snap so they’d better stay back. I held it together so much that I even managed a three-fingered wave and a head tip to one of them before I finding my truck and making sure all the clothes and both the kids were tucked and buckled.

We pulled out of the parking lot, it was near dark now, dinner time, so I rolled over to Taco Bell and ordered one of everything on the menu for my hungry, wilty children and got them each a soda pop, which only happens when Mama is besieged by guilt over somehow not feeding her child breakfast before subjecting him to HOURS of waiting outside the women’s fitting room while his sister deliberated over a pair of jeggings like a hung jury.

My knees were still trembling with Post Traumatic Shopping Syndrome but my white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel helped to steady me and I flipped on the headlights and pointed the truck toward home.

We hit the highway and big sis passes out tacos and napkins and takes a big gulp of her Sprite and she sighs happy and deep.

“You know what? That was the first time I ever remember clothes shopping like that.”

“Mmmmh. Uh huh.” It’s barely a mumble from my throat but finally, my nerves feel like they might be able to come back and live inside my body again.

“And you know what else Mama?” She chomps on a bite of taco and looks at the dusk outside rolling by.

“Hmmm?” I think back to when they were toddlers and I thought I had it down.

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She shakes the ice in her cup and wipes her mouth and I’m able to smile now, and yes, it used to be hard, but sometimes it feels even harder than it was now that they’re getting bigger, but isn’t it all a joy?

And she smiles back and she says “Mama…it was just delightful.”

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Maycomb and Bookstores and Teenage Boy Readers and the Best Book Club I Know

An open letter to my book besties in the smallest most bestest Facebook Book Club ever:

You guys, you may not forgive me but here goes.

I haven’t read our book this month.

In fact, I probably won’t ever read Ready Player One.

I’m still working on Townie, a book I started on JUNE 8th (can you BEEELEEVE it’s taken me over a MONTH to finish this thing?) and can’t quite get to the end of, but I’m too close to the end to NOT keep going to the end.

And then…

We just had to go on and go to the bookstore in Homer yesterday and I saw my boy’s hands reach out in front of him and gravitationally lift toward Go Set a Watchman on the upper left corner of the top shelf and I watched his brain count up the money he had in his wallet and quickly realize that it wasn’t quite $27.99 so he sat right down and read four chapters in the half hour I shopped and took selfies with my book and chatted it up with the owner of the store.
065 (4)On our way home we checked the mail, and there it was, Go Set a Watchman, the copy I’d ordered last week from Amazon.

He wouldn’t let anyone else touch it and he didn’t put it down until twenty hours later at 4 p.m. today when he said:

THAT.

Now THAT…was good.

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I build my platform and I think of Jesus and I haul them to 4-H meetings and I sip my red wine and I make land deals this week but really…

I have to finish Townie.

Because I have to start Go Set a Watchman.

Now.

Because I see reviews that Atticus is a bigot and I hear the news that he and Scout had a blow-out and my man-boy-literary snob is snorting in the back seat and volunteering to stay and watch the truck while the rest of us do a library trip and I see his eyes get big over the edge of the new hardcover that smells so good and

my whole family is waiting for me to start Go Set a Watchman.

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird out loud to them on our big road trip in April…

How could I not read this to them in August?

How could I not read it to ME in August? Or this, the last week of July?

So between my mother being here from out of state and needing the attention of good company…

…and between our farm life being in full swing with fair prep and growing animals…

…and between the excitement of a new chunk of land that will cradle our homestead and even better a WHOLE ROOM FOR A LIBRARY…

…my stack of books seductively calls my name and as I dream of baskets of paperbacks that hold titles for yearly reading goals…at the top of the stack is our sweet Harper Lee with her hardcover that without knowing it, we’ve all been anticipating, and friends, I hang my head in book-club shame but I say it clear and I say it sure…

Ready Player One is never going to fit into my life.

I face it, own it, have come to terms with it, and now…

I’m telling you.

I bare my bookish soul and I face my bookish friends and I say I’m just not going to be able to read our book of the month, and even if I had time I wouldn’t because I can’t squeeze in one more book before I move on to Harper’s and it’s right there on the kitchen table while our other selection sits somewhere in the abyss of the Nook with the dark screen.

I won’t be able to chat and get excited and type answers in a bookish frenzy about the new favorite book we all love and the new favorite characters we all meet, and while I’ll miss that this month, I know you all understand.

Scout calls.

She’s right there.

Atticus beckons.

I can almost see him reading the newspaper in the parlor.

Maycomb begs entry and soon I’ll smell her streets.

And right after I finish Townie…

I’ll open the pages on this new one here and along with my boy…

…and his siblings and his dad…

….I’ll fall in.