Tag: spaghetti

Charlie’s Room: Short and Tall

Charlie looked up from his spaghetti and asked, “How tall will I be when I grow up?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest. He smiled at Charlie. “It’s hard to say. You’ll probably be somewhere around the height of your mom and I. Why do you ask?”

“I was wondering if I got too tall for this house, if I could go and live at that store with the really tall doors. I think I’d like that. How do I get to be tall?”

Marianne shrugged. “I don’t think you get to pick how tall you are. Just eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. That’s pretty much all you can do.”

“Unless you end up in some sort of magical dimension and eat the wrong sort of thing,” Isaac added.

“Like Alice in Wonderland?” Charlie grinned. “I like that. It would be nice to be able to be short and tall whenever you want. And her clothes grew with her! That would be good. I’m not sure if there are clothes for really, really tall people in the stores. If I was really small, we could buy a doll house for me to live in.”

“Well, there aren’t any magical dimensions, so you need to eat your vegetables and go to bed on time.” Marianne pointed to his plate and Charlie started eating his peas.

“And the dollhouse?” Charlie asked, his mouth half full of chewed peas.

“Wait to finish eating what’s in your mouth before you talk.”

Charlie closed his mouth, and Isaac nodded approvingly. “If you were small enough to live in a dollhouse, we’d get you one.”

Charlie finished chewing. “I think I need a little brother or sister.”

“Why?” Marianne frowned.

“Then I wouldn’t be the littlest one in the house. I’d be really big, but I wouldn’t be the biggest one, either. I’d be big and small at the same time. So?”

“So, what?” Isaac asked.

“When can I have a little brother or sister?”

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Isaac lost the staring contest again. He really needed to practice, or he was going to be stuck answering all the difficult questions. He didn’t mind really, except that Marianne usually gave better answers.

“That probably won’t happen,” Isaac said. “But we’ll let you know if that changes. I think you’re overlooking one obvious solution to your problem.”

Charlie frowned at first, but his frown fell as he began to think. “What solution? Can we get a dog?”

“I’m still allergic to dogs, sadly,” Isaac said.

Charlie thought a little longer. “I still don’t know.”

“If what you really want is to be short and tall, the solution isn’t to find some one younger than you. If you had a little brother or sister, they would grow too. They might even end up taller than you. Also, you are already shorter than us, but as you get older, that will change. We won’t be a lot taller than you any more. However, there are things that you are always going to be taller than or shorter than.”

“Like what?”

“Think of the plants and animals that are taller and shorter than you.”

“Like dinosaurs?”

Isaac nodded. “Yup. Always taller.”

“But who is always shorter?”

“Goldfish, petunias, flower fairies, leprechauns, ants…” Isaac started counting things off on his fingers.

“I still kind of want a little brother or sister. And a big brother or sister. And a dog.” Charlie pushed the peas around on his plate.

Marianne and Isaac looked at each other. Marianne smiled and let Isaac win the staring contest. She put a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “Do you remember the story of the three bears? Each of the bears had something different, but it was just right for them. Do you think Mama bear who liked soft chairs would have been comfortable in Papa bear’s chair?”


“Do you think that Papa Bear liked his porridge the same way as Mama bear?”

“I guess not. I don’t know.”

Marianne patted Charlie’s shoulder and let go. “Just right is different for different people and different families. I think our family is just right for us. I’m glad we have each other.”

Charlie nodded slowly. “Okay. But can we get a bird? Or a goldfish? Dad isn’t allergic to those.”

Marianne looked at Isaac and he shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said.

The next week, they bought a goldfish. It was much shorter than Charlie. “Now I just need to find a dinosaur,” he said.

Charlie’s Room: Distracted

Marianne shuffled through the cans in the pantry again. “What happened to the olives?”

Isaac, who was brushing butter onto the raw loaves of bread, paused. He set down the brush. “Did we use them in the spaghetti yesterday?”

“No. I added mushrooms, and I don’t like to have both at the same time.”

“That’s right.” Isaac thought again. “We didn’t put them in the potato soup two days ago.”

“Of course not.”

Charlie dashed into the kitchen, holding up a garden book. “The Farmer’s Almanac has a recipe for a slug trap. We’ll need molasses and cornmeal and flour and yeast. Do we have all that?”

Marianne looked back at the pantry. “I don’t think we have cornmeal. Do you know what happened to the olives?”

Charlie nodded. “We ate them when we were watching movies, remember? We put them on our fingers. They only fit on the ends of Dad’s fingers. Except his pinkies.”

“That’s right.” Marianne shut the cupboard door. “Do you want to go with me to the grocery store? We can pick up some cornmeal.”

“Yeah! Let’s go.” Charlie darted towards the door and paused. “Are you coming too, Dad?”

Isaac finished brushing butter on the loaves and smiled. “No, these are ready for the oven, so I need to be here to make sure to take them out in time.”

“Sounds good. Don’t let the house burn down while we’re gone.” Marianne patted him on the shoulder and followed Charlie out the door.

Isaac slid the loaves of bread into the oven and set the timer. He had a little over half an hour. Now what?

The mail basket on the counter was empty. Did that mean no one had checked the mail yet? Well, that shouldn’t take too long. On the way to the mailbox, he glanced over at Miss Marta’s house. There was a little bit of smoke drifting over the fence.

Marianne’s joke about the house burning down suddenly came to mind. He walked over to the fence and peeked over, just in case. Miss Marta had a little fire pit in her backyard. A large black cauldron was hanging from a metal stand over the pit. Miss Marta was stirring the pot with a long-handled spoon.

Isaac sniffed the air. “Are you burning rosemary?” he asked.

Miss Marta looked over at him, startled. “Yes. Is everything okay?”

“Of course. I just saw the smoke and wanted to make sure your house wasn’t on fire. Are you making soap?”

Miss Marta nodded. “How did you know?”

“That’s how my grandma used to make it. Did you need any help?”

She said she didn’t, but they had a nice long talk on soap molds and lye and it took longer than it should have for Isaac to remember that he was checking the mail. He excused himself and went to the mailbox.

There were ads and bills. Isaac leafed through them, separating them. The ads they wouldn’t be interested in all he left in the recycle bin outside. The rest he took back into the house with him.

When he stepped inside, he could hear the timer ringing. Oops. Luckily there wasn’t any smoke. He hurried to the kitchen, dropping the mail on the counter, and opened the oven door. He leaned back to avoid the steam. The bread was a little darker brown than he liked, but edible.

He left it to cool on the counter and turned off the timer and the oven. Then he started going through the mail. Moments later, Marianne and Charlie returned from the store. Marianne dropped the shopping bag on the counter next to the bread. “Oh, is the bread done? I didn’t think we were gone that long.”

Charlie held up the can of olives he’d carried into the house. “We got an extra can of olives to wear on our fingers while dinner cooks! Can you help me open it?”

Marianne smiled and started to unpack the rest of the groceries. “I also got some raspberry jam to go with the bread. It’s a reward for not burning the house down while we were gone.”

Isaac laughed a little nervously. “It was a near thing, but I managed to safely bake the bread without any fires at all.”

“Hmmmm.” Marianne looked a little suspicious.

Isaac cleared his throat. “Did you know that Miss Marta has a fire in her back yard?”

Charlie paused his search for the can opener and grinned. “Really?”

“She’s making soap. Just like my grandma used to.”

Marianne frowned. “I think she’d get better results inside on the stove.”

“Can we go talk to her after dinner? I want to see.” Charlie had the can of olives clasped to his chest, his eyes shining.

The conversation moved on, they ate olives before dinner and with dinner, and then they visited Miss Marta after dinner. After that there was all the excitement of making a slug trap. Isaac didn’t ever have to admit to nearly burning the bread, if not the house.

However, after that he made it a personal rule to stay inside the house while he was cooking. Unless he was cooking on the grill, of course. And he never burned down the house. Ever.

Charlie’s Room: A Lazy Afternoon

One morning, Isaac woke up, and he wasn’t feeling well. This was unfortunate, because it was his day off. Charlie and Marianne spent the last week planning a hike, now that the weather was finally warmer. They packed their backpacks and lunches and chose the perfect hiking-through-the-woods outfits.

But Isaac didn’t feel well. He didn’t have a fever. He wasn’t throwing up or coughing. He didn’t have any sharp pains anywhere. He wasn’t dizzy, not really. He just felt tired and yucky and awful.

“Maybe it’s allergies,” Marianne said. “Your allergies do seem worse in the spring.”

“Maybe you’re just getting old,” Charlie said. “You did just have a birthday not that long ago. Maybe it finally kicked in?”

Isaac sat up a little straighter. “I’m not that old.”

Charlie raised his eyebrows. “Hmmm. I don’t know. How old is old? You’re older than me.”

Marianne laughed. “So am I, and I feel fine. I don’t think that’s it.” She turned to Isaac. “You know, maybe you’ve been working too hard lately. I think what you need is a lazy afternoon.”

“A lazy afternoon? What about the hike?” Isaac had his own backpack waiting for him, and he’d already applied a generous layer of sunscreen.

“You’re obviously not feeling well. You took your temperature twice, you keep checking your eyes in the mirror, and you haven’t finished your oatmeal. You love oatmeal.” Marianne shrugged. “If you’re not feeling well, you won’t enjoy the hike.”

Isaac looked down at his oatmeal. It was normally his favorite breakfast, but today it looked awful. “But it was supposed to be a family hike.”

Charlie patted his arm. “We’ll take lots of pictures. It will almost be like you were there. There will be other hikes, you know.”


“We’ll be fine. Now, if you’re staying home you need to rest.” Marianne folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. “No doing anything from that long to-do list that you keep. Just rest.”

Charlie nodded. “Maybe you could take a nap, too. Old people like naps.”

Isaac frowned. “I’m not old.”

“Of course not.” Charlie took another bite of oatmeal.

Marianne smiled. “Now that’s all settled, we need to go soon. Isaac, I’ll leave your lunch in the fridge.”

Not long after, they finished their breakfast and left. Isaac saw them off, and returned to his half-eaten bowl of oatmeal. Somehow it looked even worse than before.

Maybe he would take a nap. Not because he was old, of course. It just sounded especially nice right now. He scraped out his bowl of oatmeal and left the bowl in the sink to soak. Then he changed back into his pajamas and went back to bed.

Hours later, he woke up. The house had that heavy silence that only empty houses get. Golden bars of sunlight streamed from the windows, gilding things in an afternoon glow. He felt a little better.

Isaac sat up slowly and stretched. Without his to-do list hanging over his head, he felt alarmingly unrushed. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with his time.

He could read a book or watch a movie or take a bath. He could stare out the window at the clouds. He could take a bath. He could take another nap.

Isaac went back to the kitchen and took his lunch out of the fridge. He ate his sandwich and thought. What did he want to do? What was the perfect activity for a lazy afternoon?

Isaac called Great-Aunt Bethyl. “Hi, I have some time free this afternoon and thought I’d call and catch up.”

They spent an hour talking about current events and life in general and their lives in particular. It was a wonderful phone call. Finally Great-Aunt Bethyl got another call and had to go. “Call again sometime,” she said. “This was really nice.”

Isaac called Cousin Reginald and listened to him read his latest poetry. He even called Aunt Doris and listened to her tell him how to be a better parent. Isaac’s ear felt sweaty from being squished against the phone, but he’d really enjoyed the calls.

He pulled some cookies out of the cupboard and ate them with milk. He made sure to dunk the cookies in the milk, filling the milk with sweet, soggy crumbs. It was perfect.

He made spaghetti for dinner, and while it cooked he listened to the radio. He made up words to the classical music and sang along loudly. It was a lot of fun, and not at all embarrassing when there was no one to hear him.

Marianne and Charlie came back just as dinner was ready. Isaac greeted them with a smile. “I’m glad you’re home. Did you have fun?”

“Yes, and we took lots of pictures,” Charlie said. “What did you do?”

“I made some phone calls and ate cookies,” Isaac said.

“That sounds nice,” Marianne said. “It looks like you’re feeling better.”

“I think I am,” Isaac said.

“Did you take a nap?” Charlie asked.

“I did,” Isaac said.

“I thought so,” Charlie said. He nodded. “Sometimes old people just need a nap.”

“I’m not old.”

“Of course not,” Charlie said.