The curtain snaps against the breeze in the open window. Triumphant flapping and clucking of Hope’s favorite hen heralds its daily escape.
She listens to comfortable thuds and thumps as he prepares breakfast. Brewing coffee rumbles a baseline to the robins’ chirping. The last stair-tread squeaks as Hope joins her father. Both quiet and reserved, in the mornings together they are quite talkative, sharing observations from the farm or surrounding woods, their voices rolling soft like the round-rocked brook. They unconsciously interpret morning sighs. They bring her coffee, their tentative daily offering, worry they might rouse her to flight.
“Thank you for the coffee in bed, sorry I’m so lazy, it’s just that morning sounds have become such sweet music to me.”
“That’s okay, Mom, we don’t mind, do we Dad?”
He grunted his assent and lingered with his own coffee after Hope left to tend her chickens. “Everything okay, I mean, you ain’t got your traveling itch again do you?”
“If you must know, I do plan on traveling, hikin’ to the blackberry patch that’s past the upper meadow, fill some buckets, then hike back, scratches and all, and make jam… Stop worrying, I’ve never been happier.”
“Jeezus, thought you were a bear!”
“Just me. Chores are done, thought I’d pick blackberries with you.”
“There’s more. Tell me.”
“Ok.” He picked as he spoke, careful not to bruise the berries. “You sounded restless this morning.”
“Oh.” She stopped picking, watched him. “I’m not.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“I hear the music of the farm, of you and Hope, but then I’m like a scratch in the record.”
He had stopped picking, caught her tear with a berry-stained finger, pulled her close. “I’m sorry.”
“Show me everything about this farm.”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
“Hope’s up the hill with her mandolin. Wanted to serenade us. Or wanted to get out of picking berries.”
“I’d rather she play for us than pick berries. She plays beautifully.”
“Yep. Comin’ along.”
“You’ve taught her so much. She’s quite a kid.”
“Yep, she is. She can do just about anything that needs doin’. Except…”
“No one’s taught her to make blackberry jam. Teach her.”
“I don’t figure she’d want to. She’s always outdoors with you.”
“Just ask her.”
“Ask me what?”
“Hope. I didn’t know if you was interested in making jam.”
He sat in his stuffed armchair.
“Dad, aren’t you going to help?”
“No, Hope, I’m not. Gonna set here and look to be reading my magazine.”
“You could at least play for us. I played for you when you picked the berries.”
“Nope. Gonna just enjoy the sounds of other people workin’.”
It was staccato at first, simple instructions, answers to questions. Then mother and daughter found their rhythm, the tempo quickened. Yelps from handling hot sterilized jars were followed quickly by laughter. They giggled at each other’s clef of bangs, curled by the steam.
Listening, he smiled, content.