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“Mother,” Coalhouse said, overturning his tintype sandbucket in the beautiful white sand piled up before him, “how far does the ocean go?”

She came to stand close beside him. “That’s a big question for a small boy,” she said, and stroked his cheek. All of her children were wonderful, beautiful, but Tateh and she took special care with Coalhouse. She wanted him to thrive, to reflect the honor of Sarah and his father. Tateh was already teaching him how to catch the shadows with his little viewfinder. She hoped he would be a writer; he had such a way with words.

“But how far does it go?” he asked, the directness of his father reflected in his solemn eyes.

Mother knelt in the sand beside him, her bathing costume dripping against the tiny piles of sand. She spread her fingertips out toward the setting sun, the pale waves. “This ocean ends all the way in Japan.”

Coalhouse’s eyes widened. “Oh!! That’s so far away - I wanna go there, someday.”

Mother didn’t cringe at his request, though, with the war in their rear view mirror, the idea of any of her children going near the other side of the ocean sent a chill up her spine. “Perhaps someday you shall.”

“In a plane?”

“Maybe.” Mother didn’t discount that the Wright Brothers’ shiny new invention might fly for longer distances by the time Coalhouse was a man.

Coalhouse considered the possibility and, with a solemn nod, stood and stirred the sand from his beach trunks. “For now, I’d rather a hot dog.”

She laughed and stood, fetching his bucket before the waves could take it. “That we can find together.”

 

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“Tateh. Why is the sky blue?”

Tateh had been watching the gulls circle overhead when Edgar had asked his question. “Because it’s God’s favorite color,” he said cheerfully.

The child tucked his hands into his pockets. “I thought that might be brown or green,” he observed. “There’s so much of it here.”

Tateh tucked his hands into his pockets and said, “check your books and see what’s in them.”

“But I’d rather hear it from you.”

Tateh beamed. He’d entered Edgar's life mid-stream, and hadn’t anticipated Edgar would respect him, though he wished for that dearly. Edgar must have clear memories of his father, even if the man had had a tendency to disappear on dragon-chasing quests – something Tateh could never fathom doing, loving his daughter so. “Then believe me, child – it’s God’s favorite color.”

Edgar took that in with a nod, and they made their way to the cool ocean

 

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“Tateh, why do we celebrate Independence Day?”

He was half asleep when his daughter asked him this question, sitting regally in the sand as Coalhouse and Edgar slept in heaps beside her on the beach blanket. Mother had been resting with her head on his shoulder; her freshly bobbed hair and new swimming costume were damp against him. It was time for fireworks, and they were full to the brim with hot dogs and blueberry pie. “Because this is the day we declared ourselves a free country! We rejected the English king!”

His daughter – who like he, unlike these other children – hadn’t been born in this country – wrinkled up her nose. “I don’t remember that happening.”

“It happened long ago,” he said, reaching to draw her into his arms. She leaned into his opposing side and let out a sigh. “I wasn’t alive, myself.”

She hummed thoughtfully. “I’m glad we live here,” she said.

“I’m glad, too.”

The sky was a bloom of purple and red and orange, and he thought again of the happiness and success he’d be gifted. Hard work and luck had collided in his life, he would be ever grateful for it and the opportunity to raise these lovely children.