Papa and Nanny were always up first, around 5, followed shortly by Jack, who needs less sleep than any child in the history of children, and then slowly, the rest of the younger kids and us.
The teenagers slept until at least 10.
The bacon needed to last through all three shifts. Pancakes could be mixed and cooked on the griddle, eggs could be scrambled, grits would keep on the stove, but bacon was cooked first and saved between paper towels on a plate to be distributed evenly amongst the breakfasters.
Have I mentioned how Jack eats bacon?
If he could have but one food in this life, Jack would choose bacon. Closely followed by cheese. He would eat it for every meal and snacks. If they made a bacon lollipop Jack would have one every day.
When breakfast was over one morning we prepared to go down to the water.
The smaller three were finishing up breakfast as Honey played Solitaire on her computer in teh dining area off the kitchen and Nanny washed up. I'd gone to change into my suit and Jefferson was filling the cooler with ice and beer.
It was 9:30 AM. We'd be on the water until dusk.
Usually, the kids would swim and play around the dock, Jefferson and I would read our books and jump in occasionally to cool off. Around lunchtime someone would go upstairs to make sandwiches and bring them down to everyone else. On that particular day Jefferson was the Kitchen Man. He asked who would like to help him make lunch for everyone. Collie jumped up.
Jack scowled. He'd been crushing on Collie all morning and was not happy to see his new friend desert him.
"Jack, you can come help us, too, baby," Jefferson said.
"No! I don't like Honey!"
A collective gasp rose from the dock. Everyone fell silent.
"What do you mean, you don't like Honey? Everybody likes Honey."
"Nuh-uh, she's mean."
"Why on earth do you say that, baby?"
"Because she told me I couldn't have more bacon this morning and I wanted some! She said we had to save some for the big kids. She's mean!"
We laughed, knowing that he'd had more bacon than anyone at the breakfast table. Jefferson tried convincing Jack, to no avail, of Honey's merits. Collie tried plying him with promises of Fla-Vor-Ice from the freezer while his dad made sandwiches, but nothing would convince Jack to go.
Jefferson flashed me a knowing glance and announced their ascent up the steps.
Lynn The Girl shouted, "Y'all, don't forget the chips!"
I sat back in my chair and watched her and her cousin Rachel in their bikinis, lounging on their floating chaises in the water.
In my book, Roosevelt and Churchill were on their way to the historical meeting of the "Big Three" in Yalta. Churchill insisted on meeting Roosevelt's ship when it docked en route in Malta. He joked to the President that Stalin had sent a cable which read, "I said Yalta, not Malta."
I smirked in recognition. I love how Churchill was constantly impressed with himself and certain of his opinions concerning right and wrong. I love how he could turn such elegant phrases in his essays and speeches and letters and then be unable to resist making such an obvious pun. It is what most delights me about him--this love of language--because I share it.
Miles and Jack were playing in the shallow water with Lillie, looking for mollusks, while Jason read Catcher in the Rye on the boat.
The day before I flew down, I'd asked Jefferson if there was anything I should bring. He asked if I had a copy of Catcher in the Rye.
"Of course I do. Why, did you finish your book already?"
"No, but i thought Jason might enjoy it."
"Oooh, teenaged angst. Yeah, let's give it to him," I tossed the trade paperback into my suitcase.
Normally I'd have thought that a boy of twelve might be too young to comprehend, much less handle J.D. Salinger, but this was Jason, who is extremely sensitive and gentle and smart as hell.
He devoured it in a day and a half.
The beads of sweat were becoming annoying on my forehead and between my breasts. I stood and stretched, walking over to the diving board, grabbing a foam noodle on the way.
I tossed the noodle out toward where the girls were floating and dove in.
The water was cool and my cheeks burned as I surfaced, wiping my eyes with my fingertips.
"Hey, ladies," I smiled as I swam over, "what's all the whispering about?"
"Oh, we're just talking about you and my dad. You guys are so cute together."
"Aw, thanks! That's sweet of you to say. . ." I glanced over at the boat. Jason leaned against his hand, lost in his book. The youngest kids were speaking to each other with bossy authority about something or other as they waded shin-deep near the reeds. I turned back to Lynn The Girl.
"Maddie, it's true! Uncle TJ is like, totally in love with you! It's so obvious!"
"Seriously, Maddie, I've known my dad a long time, and he is way into you."
I smiled. It was nice to hear. I knew how we felt about each other and it was nice to know that others saw it, too. I also knew that there were other people to consider. Jason had balked when someone used the term "girlfriend" to refer to me the night before, and had gone off by himself.
Jefferson had followed, and got him to talk about what was troubling him. I don't know exactly what he said, and it really doesn't matter. I know what it's like to have a sensitive oldest child. Miles' advantage is that he was two and a half when his father and I separated. Jason, poor baby, was nine.
My boys were totally in love with Jefferson as my friend, but they are very young and have no memory of a life with two parents.
Lillie and I were pals. Collie and I traded Star Wars trivia and shared a crush on Han Solo. Jason was sweet to me and polite, but we'd met once, very briefly, before now, and it was unfair to expect anything from him but tolerance of my children's and my presence at his family's vacation home.
I looked at the girls, so carefree: Lynn paddled absentmindedly forward and back, Rachel shielded her eyes from the sun and squinted, her braces glinting, smiling at me.
"You know, it's so awesome being here and meeting you all finally," I said, "but can I ask you two to do me a favor?"
"Could you keep the boyfriend/girlfriend talk to a minimum around the younger kids? It's a lot for them to digest, and we're really okay with being 'friends' around them."
"Oh, totally, yeah," quipped Lynn The Girl.
"Absolutely," added Rachel, "but you two are totally sneaking off and skinny dipping sometime, aren't you?"
I rolled my eyes, grinned and swam back to the ladder at the end of the dock, hoisting myself out of the water, creating cool puddles on the wooden slats as I walked across to my chair, water streaming down my legs.
Jefferson and Collie were nearly to the bottom of the steps when they called out to us, "Lunchtime!"
The girls paddled in, and Lillie and the boys chose the land route back to the dock. Jason put his book aside and came over to the table, which Jefferson and I were clearing of hats, sunscreen and BUST magazines.
"What's for lunch?" asked Jack.
"Peanut butter and jelly, potato chips and watermelon and--hey, Jack, come here!"
Jefferson bent down and grinned conspiratorially at Jack, hiding something behind his back.
Jack advanced, curious as a kid at Christmas.
Jefferson produced the hidden booty: A Ziploc bag containing six strips of bacon.
"Honey asked me to give this to you," Jefferson said, very seriously.
Jack's eyes lit up, "Bacon! Yay! Honey gave me a bag of bacon!"
"Now, do you still think Honey's mean?" asked Collie, winking at me.
Jack shook his head, the bag in one hand, the other holding a bacon strip to his lips, "She gave me a bag of bacon," he whispered, grinning.
"Hey, Miles! Honey gave me a bag of bacon!"
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