Jan rinsed the breakfast dishes and piled them into the sink. When she picked up the bottle of Joy, a spray of soap bubbles burst into the warm air.
Little Susie squealed, “Babas!”
“Yes, honey, bubbles.” She gave the baby a tired smile and reached for the dishcloth.
“Mom, can we go outside?”
Charlie stood at the back door, pressing his hands on the sagging screen.
She started to say, “Not now,” but she stopped. After three days of steady rain, her little outdoor lover needed to run in the sunshine.
“Sure,” she said. “Just let me put the dishes to soak.”
Charlie’s face lit up with a big smile. “I’ll get my truck.”
She filled the sink, dried her hands and scooped up Susie. Tucking Susie’s ball under her arm, she followed Charlie out the back door. He headed for the sand box to build roads and Susie settled on the sparse grass, rolling her ball.
Jan sank onto the back step and looked around. A few scraggly petunias struggled in the tiny garden by the steps. Scrubby grass covered part of the yard, worn thin under the swing set.
Over the fence, she saw Mrs. Walsh kneeling near one of her flower beds snipping off dead blossoms. Jan walked over and leaned on the fence, breathing in the sweetness of the roses and enjoying the splashes of color in the gardens surrounding the thick green grass.
Mrs. Walsh looked up and called, “Hello!”
“I wish I had flowers like yours,” Jan said, shaking her head. “Seems like all I do is chase the kids and fold the laundry.”
Her neighbor smiled. She came to the fence and gave Jan a quick hug.
“You will,” she assured her. “Right now, you are busy raising children but there will come a time when you can garden. I didn’t have time for flowers either when my children were little.”
“Pastor spoke about that Sunday,” Jan said, thinking back. “The times are in God’s hand, he said. I didn’t think about that way.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Walsh said with a smile, “Just think. When they’re little, you can tuck them in bed at night and know where they are.”
Charlie shouted, “Vroom, vroom,” while he pushed his truck through the sand. Susie began to crawl after a butterfly. This is a precious time, Jan realized. She felt a rush of love for her little ones.
She turned back to her neighbor. “I love your flowers," she said, "but I think I like my own ‘garden’ the best.”
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