I could tell from the hesitation in his text message that Clay wasn't thrilled with the idea of having Brussels sprouts for dinner. I'd asked him to pick up a pound on his way up the hill. Good Son that he is and wanting to keep his high standing, he complied. He hedged his bet by also bringing a couple of artichokes, and we had those as a first course. The menu would consist of pork tenderloin, roasted Brussels sprouts, and Deb's recipe that totally transforms 'tater tots into a garlicky-rosemary gourmet dish, with wine-sauteed apple crepes for dessert. Clay and I agreed that the mushy boiled Brussels sprouts we'd been served as kids were abominable and generations of kids have been turned away from what, I've found out, can be something outstanding. Trying to keep the doubt from his face, Clay agreed to try them, just for me. Trimmed and halved, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt, roasted in a hot oven until fork tender, the outer leaves of the sprouts become crispy chips and the inside is sweet and delicious, nothing like the sprouts our mothers served. I knew I had a winner and a convert when Clay took a second, bigger helping and said he's going to add Brussels sprouts to his vegetable shopping list.
The falling tree or breaking branch remains a mystery. At first light, I walked around to every tree on the upper property and could find nothing. I really was worried about walking under a broken branch that hadn't made it to the ground yet. That cracking sound the night before was something I've unfortunately heard a couple of times before and Bessie's reaction told me it wasn't my imagination. In the afternoon, Clay walked down into the woods a ways but couldn't find any downed tree either. Sound travels in strange ways through the hills, and it must have been a tree on someone else's property. They have my sympathy.
To clear up any confusion, I have six children: Deb, Dave, Pete, and Larry, the children of my body, and Clay and Craig, the sons of my heart (whose mothers graciously share them with me). I unashamedly say they are all the loves of my life. The NASCAR race that Clay had come up to watch with me was the background to cooking, dinner, and good old-fashioned conversation. I'll take second helpings of that any day and every time.
It was a good day.