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Pooka and Art are gone at her tumbling class when I open a package of cheap paring knives and hand each boy a bar of soap. Our studies of the Renaissance have brought us up to Michelangelo, and since we don’t have any large chunks of marble lying around we’re going to practice our sculpting skills on these white blocks of Ivory instead.

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We’re using a lesson I found online, so we follow the instructions to trace the shape of a basic fish on the side of the soap. Before we start hacking away, I have each boy raise his right hand and repeat after me: “I [state your name] do solemnly swear that no matter what happens to my fish I will not cry. I am learning a new skill. I do not have to be perfect. This is just fun anyway.” By the end both boys are cracking up at their not-funny manglings of my solemn vow.

We are sitting on the back step with our blocks of soap and our toothpicks and paring knives. The sun is setting on the front side of the house, so we are comfortable in the shade. The dryer vents near the back door, so the smell of Blue Sparkle Snuggle dryer sheets occasionally wafts over us and overpowers the soapy smell that surrounds us as we cut and peel and shave our bars.

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I shave carefully at my fish. DP has his own method that endangers his fingers and makes me nervous. I try not to be Overprotective Mom. When he jumps and flails and nearly cuts off my finger I am forced to remind him that the object he is holding is, in fact, sharp. “I know but I got a breeze of GARBAGE!” he moans melodramatically. Angry Ranger and I both catch the same wind just then, and AR pretends to faint. The garbage can is also at the back of the house, and tomorrow is garbage day so it’s full of a week’s worth of ew.

Our fish are taking shape in spite of the garbage smell and the near-death-from-dull-paring-knives experiences we are all having. One of the boys toots and they both fall over laughing. I roll my eyes. Mothering boys when they were little seemed to pretty much revolve around their bodily functions. Sometimes I am reminded that though they are taller, things haven’t really changed much.

“GARBAGE WIND!!!!” I yell, and we all get the giggles again.

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With our fish about as fishy as they’re ever going to get, the boys ask for a new bar of soap and I pass them out. I tell them they can make whatever they want. We joke about making soap-sized replicas of Michelangelo’s David but decide not to. I say that’s probably good since none of us knows how to make a loincloth, and if ever someone needed a loincloth, poor David does. We spend a few minutes bashing Renaissance artists who made everybody naked.

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I decide to trace a heart onto my soap, which I do with my toothpick as the boys experience another exciting moment when someone toots just as the garbage breeze blows over us. Angry Ranger announces his intention to create an irregular blob, and I am inspired to compose a song with that title. It is brilliant in the way that things are brilliant when you’re a little tired and possibly had more sugar than was healthy.

Darth Piggy still can’t decide what to carve in his soap. I suggest he carve a pretty girl, but he starts to make a heart. AR, done with his irregular blob, starts drawing faces into his leftover chunks with his toothpick. I tease him about all the various pretty girls they might be. DP adds a few suggestions of his own, which he thinks is funny until the tables are turned and we offer a few ideas of pretty girls that he could carve.

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We’re all collapsed in laughter over our own brilliance and the long gust of garbage breeze that has just washed over us when the garage door opens, bringing Art and Pooka back to us. We try to explain but of course they don’t understand. That’s okay.

Sometimes the best memories are impossible to explain.

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