I’ve just settled into my reading chair with a cup of that pumpkin tea from Trader Joe’s that I love after cleaning up the dinner dishes when the sixth grader, mindlessly circling the dining room table, makes this announcement. The New Yorker is open on my lap
“Do you want to play a game?” I ask. I would gladly set down my magazine and leave my reading chair to revisit an activity she used to love but has seemed to grow out of.
“No. I want to bake something.”
I suck in my breath, and before the words can get themselves in decent form they come reflexively out. “It’s late and I just finished cleaning the kitchen.”
She pauses and cocks her head to the side a bit. “What time is it?” I look at my watch.
“Oh, that’s fine. I don’t go to bed until 10:00.”
She has chosen to focus on the objection that mattered least. And she’s not wrong; school has been cancelled for tomorrow already. I got the automated phone message three hours earlier. It’s the ninth day of the teacher strike, and by now I don’t even answer when the call comes. I recognize the number and I know.
“Okay, but I’m not doing any more cleaning in the kitchen,” I yield in my “I’m-very-serious” voice. She intones the requisite promises to not make a mess.
I sigh into my tea.