The girls play Playmobil for hours, sorting small beads and sequins into piles of money, counting the real money in their plastic jars and dreaming of new Playmobil sets. I boil eggs, hang laundry, water my ivy, find comfort in physical tasks, wonder how long my children will find a home in their imaginary world.
P and I walk to the flower vendor. She carries a Blue Band container for her new bottle cap collection. When we pass the guard at the gate, he asks her what she is collecting, admires the one rusty cap in the container. We are startled by a barking dog behind a fence, notice garbage piled in the ditches, buy red and white carnations for her sisters. On the way home, the guard stops us, drops two bottle caps into P’s collection, has tripled her treasure.
The girls argue over whose turn it is to roll dough through our pasta maker, watch the long floppy sheets grow longer with each turn. They spread them on parchment paper, poke crooked rows of holes into them with a fork, ready to become imperfect matzo for tomorrow’s seder.
I am on the back porch, writing messy pages in a cheap lined notebook. M sits down beside me, opens a matching notebook, writes another chapter of the book she says she wrote in her dream last night. It is a romance about two people meeting at a wedding. We write in silence side by side. I write longer than I had planned, unwilling to break this tenuous connection.
P and J pack grapes and string cheese into plastic containers, gather notebooks and pens, shout goodbyes as they begin their day of sister exploring.
We squeeze onto the Lamu couch to watch the Lego documentary, eat rosemary popcorn, exclaim at people’s creativity. Near the end of the film M says “I’m totally going to build more Lego after seeing this,” and as soon as the credits are over, all three girls run to the Lego basket, inspired, unable to restrain themselves from creating.
One of our banana trees falls, pulled over by the weight of its own fruit, its own self-sacrificing biology. The girls walk along its smooth trunk like a balance beam, pick green bananas from the long bunch lying in the grass, unfold the petals of its strange heart shaped flower. They remind me of medical students poking a cadaver, fascinated by the cracks and crevices that have never been theirs to access before. Soon Phil brings out a machete, hacks off giant leaves for the girls to use as sleds, fans. M brings out yarn and we tie the leaves together into a teepee. The girls play house under its curling leaves long after the sky has turned dark.
Phil and I read Flannery O’Connor aloud under the porch light, eat olives and cheese and watch the geckos crawl across the ceiling above us, tense with the possibility of their falling.
Every surface of the house is covered in small ants, some roaming aimlessly over countertops, the keys of my laptop, some condensed into steady rivers up and down the corners of walls, around the door frames. A determined contingent carries a dragon fly, giant and unwieldy, across the living room floor. P gives periodic updates on their progress. We admire their speed and teamwork.
After supper the girls collect mini hockey sticks, two pairs of secondhand roller blades and climb up the hill to the tennis court to play hockey. Their rules are elaborate. The player without skates is the referee, counts down from twenty before dropping the ball, is responsible for running around the fence to get the ball when it rolls off the court. After each goal, the one who scores drops to the cement and starts unbuckling the roller blades, peels off sweaty socks, passes them to the referee to take her turn in the game. Phil and I watch from the steps as their shapes turn blue in the fading light, laugh at their flailing limbs, the way J skates straight into the fence to stop every time.