I flit around the kitchen, dusting bits off the counter and rinsing a few plates, and my mind goes to the daughter who usually sits where the crumbs were. She's the type to make tiny piles with her food, then wander off. Fittingly, she loves to make fairy houses. I peer through the grimy sliding glass door to the backyard, where the light is dim and the air is heavy after a storm.
There it is, her fairy house, now a pile of stones and wind-scattered leaves, acorn tops and twigs and a few broken bits from what used to be terra cotta pots, long discarded. She had carefully chosen the pieces, balanced and arranged and rearranged, then proudly had given me a house tour, pointing out where the table was, the bed, the chimney, the door.
Or maybe that's not her fairy house at all. I look again, reluctant to step outside into the chill. A gopher has made in seemingly no time a tremendous mound where her creation had been, and a squirrel has industriously gathered more acorns than she had in that spot.
In fact, how long has it been since she's been out there? It's December now, and the weather has been cold and rainy, and she's been studying her fifth grade Shakespeare and maybe, maybe it's been more than a few weeks since she's been outside to make a fairy house.
When it was warm in October, she could have been out there, but what I remember is that she was at a friend's house working together on their Halloween costumes.
September? No, she was in school and we were working out her endless gymnastics commitments and carpools.
August, July? Between everything, perhaps there was no fairy house. There was no fairy house this year. I don't believe it. I wipe down the counter again and turn off the kitchen lights.