It was the protein powder. He put my sunflower seeds and blue corn chips in the brown paper bag with handles when he mentions protein powder. It made me think about how I used to make Trader Joes protein shakes with vitamin swirls for Murielle when we lived in Phoenix.

He told me he’s a chef. Asks me if I like to cook.

I said I do. I like to cook. But I don’t like to clean it up afterward, so I find myself making things based on how many pans get dirty. He cooks and cleans up too because they have a two year old at home.

“And he’s a lot of work for my wife,” he says holding dark chocolate, waiting for my empathy. So what age was she when you started making those protein drinks,” he asks.

She was two.

I load frozen cartons into freezer bags in the back of my mini-van like a gypsy shuffling her wares. The chicken nuggets she nimbled watching Blue Clues lay on the top. She still craves them at sixteen.

Louise pulls up beside me. We drive together across the parking lot, share birthday tacos in clothes from the back of our closets. Conversation waves about hormones, her pregnancy after forty and ambivalence about cutting the curls from his golden crown of a year.

Murielle was two the first time I cut her hair, I tell her. Those thin wisps with stray curls hanging past her shoulders, my friend Claire cut them off the first time. Her little frame sat atop phone books, draped in a towel under the orange tree.

Louise excuses herself from the half empty water glasses. I text Murielle, ask her what she’s doing.

A few hours later, I sit next to her, swivel in the black vinyl with my Kindle and reading glasses. We discuss the color in the mirror while Julie watches. I ask my first born if she’s nervous. She smiles and says no. Her toes wiggle in the sandals I convinced her to buy at Macy’s. I’m trying to read the truth under that plastic cape.

When Julie pulls the paddle brush through a tangle in the long shiny, I tell her that Murielle went through a year of combing through matted clumps after long days of swimming when she was in the fourth grade.

“I still get them Mom,” she says.

I didn’t know that.

I spread out the pizza dough I bought from the chef at Trader Joes, paint it with pesto. Harrison pulls himself up on the island across from me, talks to H about his computer. His teenage legs stretch out longer than mine now.

We touch noses, eyes press together blurry when I tell him I like it when he sits here. Remind him that he used to sit in my lap, hunched over in my hands. He giggles.

“Mom, you’re having a day of remembering things about us,” Murielle says as she pours Coke over ice next to him on the island.

I didn’t notice it until she said it. How I prayed for my kids this morning and God answered in the retrieval of childhood snapshots like sitting on the couch lapped with memory books.

Because sometimes we hold dreams so tight they have to be let go in remembering, one clump of moments at a time flying free.

What are you holding tight that needs letting go?

Linking with God Bumps & God Incidences, WLWW, Walk With Him Wednesday, Life in Bloom.