I turned on my headlights and paused to smile at the colors on the pavement before beginning to back up the hill and out of the driveway. Little Cousin and I had used sidewalk chalk to draw on the driveway while Cousin repotted plants and Jay filtered vegetable oil he used to deep fry a chicken last weekend. I had drawn a pumpkin (then labeled it to avoid confusion), tried to draw another when Little Cousin demanded it, but the pressure was too great and it looked more like a peach. So I labeled it as such and moved on.
"Is that corn?" Cousin asked happily as she looked away from her small daughter's drawings to my work.
"It is now." I shrugged, putting away the red I was going to use for a tulip and drawing yellow ears of corn on my green stems instead. She laughed and Little Cousin came over to supervise as I finished labeling my newest creation. "It's corn." I told her and she nodded seriously before turning to deal with her own art.
"What's up with him?" Jay asked later as I embellished a smiley face.
"He's silly." I said and Little Cousin smiled at me.
"And the teeth?" Jay continued.
"Maybe he's a vampire." Cousin ventured when I was silent. I nodded easily and added points to the 2 long teeth that were coming out of the silly smiley mouth.
"Is he, um...?" Jay trailed off and we both laughed when I looked up at him.
"His lifestyle," I decided, adding an extra gold hoop to one large ear, "is his business." Then we all nodded until even Little Cousin joined us.
I stayed for hours, soaking in family time with no stresses or demands. I scooped dip thick with cream and cheddar cheese, ham and sour cream (it was good!) onto crackers and read journal articles while we watched football. I separated pumpkin seeds from pulp after watching Jay carve the largest orange orb alone. Little Cousin joined him to make her smaller decoration and I separated those seeds too. I cooed to their golden dog as I rubbed his coat. I clapped when Little Cousin sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on continuous loop and giggled when Cousin and Jay danced around the garage to the music on the radio.
"Someday, Mommy and Daddy will embarrass you when they dance like this." Jay told Little Cousin when she joined them with big smiles and little steps.
Cousin made apple pie and I went to pick up dinner. After we ate, I gathered the bag I brought with me, though I hadn't used my laptop much at all.
"You go bye-bye, Aunt Katie?" Little Cousin asked, holding the Dora book we'd read together between dinner and dessert.
"Yes, sweetheart." I told her, pleased she'd warmed up to me though she was still shy at first. I'd been graced with smiles and stories and she'd shown me some of her new toys. It was lovely. But I left nearly 7 hours after I arrived, kissing Cousin on the cheek and sighing with sleepiness.
"I'm exhausted." I told her, shaking my head.
"I'm tired a lot." She said, smiling at me. "Plus, we were busy today! We had fresh air and lots of food and laughed. It's good to be tired after that."
I pressed kisses into Jay and Little Cousin's cheeks before walking down the steps and starting the car.
"Be careful." Jay called from the porch where the carved pumpkins glowed at their feet. Little Cousin echoed his sentiment while perched on his hip.
"I will." I promised with one last glance at the sidewalk chalk. "Love you." I called and backed up, rolled down the passenger window to return the waves of the trio down the modest hill and headed off toward home.