“Or read aloud.”
“Or work on our quilt.”
“Or rehearse our play!”
Ronan held his hands up. “Hold on, hold on you two. You’d better see if Mother has anything that she needs for you to do.”
Mother was in the kitchen, standing at the little sink that Father had made from a turtle shell. She did look like she needed a little help, because she had Winnie on her hip and the twins holding onto her skirt.
“What can we do, Mother?” asked Ivy.
“Would you look after the babies for me? I really need to get this supper going.”
Everly smiled. “Of course Mrs Higganbotham. Ivy and I will play with them.”
But it wasn’t that easy. Because Winnie and Bobby and Lula did not want to leave Mother. Because they were afraid of the storm.
Everly laid a blanket down in the center of the living room. “Let’s read to them,” she said. But before she had got two pages into Mr. Spider’s New Web, they had started crying.
Ivy and Everly looked at each other.
They tried dolls and piggy back rides and hand clapping games. They tried dancing and telling jokes and everything else they could think of. Everything worked…for a minute. But then the rain would pound and the lightning would flash and the thunder would growl and the babies would cry. A lot. There was a lot of crying.
Ivy crossed her arms. “This is hopeless. They hate the storm, and the storm isn’t going away.”
Everly went back to the window. “There are raindrops the size of Inkelwhips out there!” Sometimes being only six inches tall had its downsides. Like when the raindrops were as big as you were, and the storm itself seemed more giant than a mountain.
“Exactly, the storm isn’t going away,” said Ivy. “So what are we going to do? They can’t cry like this forever.”
Everly looked around the room with its polished walls and postage stamp artwork. Mother Higginbotham had hung them carefully beside the portraits of each of her children. It was a pretty room, but it offered no inspiration.
Mot came scampering down the stairs, across the floor, and up the wall. He shook his head at the babies, as if to say why are they crying?
Ronan followed him—down the steps and across the floor, at least. He didn’t climb the walls like a green lizard.
“What’s up, sis?”
“They’re scared of the storm,” said Ivy.
“Any ideas?” added Everly.
At first, Ronan just scratched his chin. But then he smiled. “You were scared when you were little, too. We used to make tents.”
“That sounds like a great idea!” said Ivy. “Do you think that Violet and Zeph would help?”
“I’ll get them,” said Ronan. “And some blankets.”
“You’ll help us, won’t you Winnie?” asked Everly. “We need to get the table cleared off, right? That would make a great base for a fort!”
“I’ll get some pillows!” said Ivy.
Violet and Zeph came trooping down with blankets and a lantern and picture books, Ronan following them with a chair. “I think this would make a good entrance tunnel, don’t you?”
“Here, help me move this,” said Ivy.
So Ronan and Zeph and Bobby all helped shift the heavy wooden table. Father had made it many years ago when a branch had fallen from Old Friend. There were still little knots in the oak wood that Ivy loved to rub with her hands.
As soon as the table was in place, Violet and Zeph started spreading the blankets out.
“Let’s use this quilt to bridge over the entrance tunnel,” said Zeph.
“And this one for the back entrance!”
“Here’s the quilt from Mother’s bed,” said Ronan. “It should be the main walls. It’s the biggest.”
“Yeah,” said Winnie around his thumb.
“We need provisions,” said Ivy. “Everly, Bobby, I need you to go on a mission to get some food.”
Everly saluted and took Bobby by the hand. “Expedition out.” They snuck around the corner, Bobby’s chubby toddler legs trying to keep up with Everly’s smooth stride. “There’s the enemy,” Everly whispered.
Bobby looked from Mother to Everly and back. “Whoa.”
“We need to use silence and stealth to get over…there.” She pointed to the cookie jar.
They crawled on hands and knees under the kitchen table.
Mother walked from the sink to the fireplace, humming to herself.
“I’m going in,” hissed Everly. She darted up, grabbed the jar, and got back under the table in a flash. “Lead the way, Bobby.”
When they got back to the safety of the living room, cookie jar in tow, Bobby thumped his chest proudly.
“Mission complete,” said Everly.
“Fort complete,” countered Ivy.
“It looks really good! And cozy!”
The front flap flipped open. “Come on in!” said Violet.
Everyone crawled in, Ronan having to sit with his knees above his ears.
“Tell a story,” said Violet, curling up in a little ball.
“Zeph tells the best stories,” said Ronan.
Zeph grinned. “Thanks.”
“Tell us one,” said Everly.
So Zeph did, while everyone passed the cookie jar around and settled in more comfortably.
“Happy,” sighed Winnie.
Did you have any traditions when you were growing up to ward off storm induced tears? Is there something you still do? I'd love to hear all about it!