They arrive at dawn. On foot, in cars, by bike. The littlest ones are stroller-bound, knobby knees draped with tattered blankets. No one knocks; they don't have to. They come in, brew coffee, pour juice, grab milk from the fridge. They warm it in a pot to ease its chill.
Someone finds the kettle, sets it on high, sprinkles tea leaves in a small, mesh basket.
I come down the stairs, sleepy-eyed, and smile at those gathered. I'm handed a mug. I pull my robe close and give thanks for wool slippers. The sun ascends, just barely.
Soon, the air grows warm. Blankets fall off, steam wafts. Friends begin to cook in stockinged feet. The toaster ticks. Saucepans clatter. A skillet shimmers with glugs of mild oil. Garlic softens, chard sautés, salt and pepper rain. Out come the eggs, the bacon, the toast.
A late tomato appears.
Then a bird calls.
And I startle.
The house, so full?, is silent.
I read the paper. Sip my tea. Wonder how one prepares for the quiet years.
Will I still work alone, when I have no one to fetch at the end of each day?
Hours later, I drive to school. I pick up my boys.
We return, and the house is warm again.
One does homework. The other plays trumpet. I prep dinner.
Colin comes home, with smiles for us all.
The doorbell rings.