They picked Charlie up from Miss Marta’s on the way home from seeing the doctor. “Mom, is your foot okay?” he asked at once. “Did the doctor fix it?”
“It’s just a sprain,” Marianne said.
“Then you’ll need to stay off your feet for a bit,” Miss Marta said. She’d followed Isaac and Charlie out to the car. “I can take care of your yard this week.”
“You don’t need to do that,” Marianne said.
“Nonsense.” Miss Marta smiled at Charlie. “Charlie will help me. Just write up a list of things you’d like us to do this week.”
“I just need to keep things watered and weeded.”
Miss Marta nodded. “Well, then I’ll do the weeding this week, and Charlie can take care of the watering.”
“I can do that.” Charlie raised his arm to volunteer for the job. “I can do the weeding too.”
“I could do the watering,” Isaac said.
“You’ll have enough extra chores inside,” Miss Marta said. “Now, get this young lady home. She should probably get to bed early.”
“That does sound nice,” Marianne said.
They drove home, and Charlie insisted on vegetable soup for dinner. So, he and Isaac cut up the vegetables together and talked, while Marianne rested in the living room and read a book while elevating and icing her swollen ankle. “How long will it take for Mom’s foot to get better?” Charlie asked.
“It will probably be better in a few days,” Isaac said.
Charlie set down the potato he’d just washed. “Does nature give us messages?”
Isaac took the potato and started to dice it. “That’s an interesting question.”
“Miss Marta said it does.”
“Well, some people think that if the groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, there will be six more weeks of winter.”
Charlie looked puzzled. “But it would only see its shadow on a sunny day, right?”
“So they think there will be more winter if it’s sunny on Groundhog Day? What happens if the weather’s bad? Does that mean winter is over? That doesn’t make sense.” Charlie laughed and grabbed a carrot and took it to the sink.
“No, it doesn’t really make sense,” Isaac said. “But I always know winter’s coming when I see the geese going south.”
“And it’s spring when we start seeing robins and crocuses.” Charlie handed Isaac the freshly scrubbed carrot. “Can we put peas in the soup?”
“Sure, get some out of the freezer.” Isaac looked at the carrot. It had a split down one side. He chopped it into little rounds that each had a wedge missing. He held up a round. “Look, Charlie, Pac-Man carrots.”
“Cool. Do you think it means anything?” Charlie asked.
“Maybe this carrot got too much water.” Isaac started chopping the onion. His eyes watered.
“It doesn’t mean anything else?”
Isaac blinked away the tears. “I think that most things don’t need to have a deeper meaning.”
“Miss Marta said that mom stepping in the hole in the lawn and hurting her foot was nature sending a message that she needed to be off her feet for a bit and relax. Was I not helping her out enough? If I was more helpful, would she be okay?”
Isaac sighed and set aside the onion. “Come here.”
Charlie stepped a little closer and Isaac pulled him into a hug. “This wasn’t your fault,” Isaac said. “You’re a great helper. I don’t know why there was a hole in the lawn. There are lots of things that could cause it, and we’ll figure it out later. It wasn’t your fault.”
“Are you sure?” Charlie asked.
“Yes.” Isaac smiled and raised an eyebrow. “But I do think Mom will need some extra help for the next few days. Do you think we can do that?”
Charlie smiled. “Of course we can. Let’s finish making the soup. I’ll bet she’s getting hungry. I know I am.”
“You’re always hungry lately. I think it’s a message from nature that means that you’re growing.”
“I hope that one is true.” Charlie sighed. “I’d like to be a little bit taller.”
“I think you will be,” Isaac said. “It will just take some time.”