We play Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Bear around the house at dusk, hide behind hedges and banana trees. I remember playing the same game thirty years ago on Manitoba farm yards, remember Lisa jumping out from behind old tractors, her older brothers roaring in the dark. P chases Phil around the trampoline but laughs so hard she falls to the ground, pees through her pants. I carry her to the bathtub where the water turns orange from the dirt on her feet.
J and P bike down the gravel road to recruit playmates while M organizes the playroom, writes nametags on small squares of paper, arranges baskets for seats behind the piano bench desk. She lays out markers, erasers, writes out the rules for using scissors and a strict discipline plan. When her sisters return without friends, M runs outside, bangs a stick against the shed wall, her sobs of disappointment floating to me through the kitchen window.
I hold a newborn baby, thick flannel wrapped over his jacket and pants despite the sweltering heat of the dry season. His name is Goodluck Nick, his mother is radiant, proud.
I walk to a roadside flower stand. Plastic buckets hold bunches of roses, calla lilies, flowers I have no name for. The metal frame built for shade has no canopy, so two men lounge nearby on the sloping ditch beneath a flame tree. One of the men jumps up to greet me, gathers red roses into a careful bouquet, chops at their stems with a machete he keeps soaked in water. Wooden birds painted yellow and blue hang from brown thread tied to thin branches. I buy one. It swings against my legs as I walk home on the dusty pavement, carrying roses like a bride.
The girls walk to school without bending their knees. J admits, “I wouldn’t be very good at not having knees.” Another thing we had forgotten to be grateful for.