The Honey Room (from American English, Italian Chocolate)

“I’m taking a yogurt break,” I tell my daughter. She’s come downstairs dressed for a wedding. Six months pregnant, she’s becoming abundant. Her husband is at his parents’ house a few miles away. When they fly into town, out of old habit, they still go to their rooms. The yellow dress she’s wearing is long, diaphanous, and, I won’t tell her this, probably a mistake.

“What do you think?”

“Nice,” I say.

I think she’s dressed for a prom, except for that volleyball, my eventual grandson, underneath the dress. Her mother and I waited to find out, game for surprise. She’s a planner.

I dump walnuts in the bowl. “Your mother won’t eat this,” I say. “She’s impervious to yogurt.”

“I’ve got another dress upstairs. Should I try it?”

She decides for herself, rushing pregnantly up the stairs, leaving me to my snack. Yesterday my wife came home with a quart of local honey. In our mudroom we have a cupboard full of old honey, crystalized souvenir honeys she brought home from trips–clover honey, walnut honey, truffle honey. I break into the new stuff, still liquid enough to stir into my yogurt.

A bedroom door clunks shut upstairs. For twenty-five years there was a construction-paper heart taped to that door, my daughter’s name written in the middle, in red and blue crayon. I don’t remember taking it down, but I know it’s gone.

“A delicious treat,” I say to no one.

My mouth is full of sweetness when they both yell up there. Yesterday I found a hairy millepedey-looking bug an inch long. I hope it’s not one of those.

“Can you help us?” my wife yells.

She doesn’t even eat honey. Flu season, she’ll take some in tea. Otherwise, it’s strictly ornamental, over there in the honey room.

The problem upstairs is zipping the dress shut. It’s black and, if we can get it closed, better than the lemon parachute. The dress looks serious, formal. It takes two to make a daughter; now she’s pregnant, two to get her dressed.

“Pull here.”

“I am.”

“Not there, here. Pull it together.”

“I’m trying.”

“It’s too high. Let me pull it down.”

“I can get it.”

“Does it hurt? Is it too tight?”

“I’m huge.”

“You’re all right.”

I admire her shoulder blades. When she was little, I told her that’s where wings would grow.

“Now try.”

“Hold it together.”

“I am.”

“Farther down.”

“Ugh.”

“It’s all right.”

“There it goes.”

“Stretchy.”

“Got it.”

A few minutes later she’s in the car, going to pick up the husband. My wife and I stand at the window, watching her back down the driveway.

“She should turn around,” my wife says. “One thing your father said I agree with: Never back up when you can go forward.” She thinks a minute, then says: “What’s that smell?”

“Yogurt,” I say.

“Is she sleeping here tonight?”

“A delicious treat,” I say, “with our new honey.” Too good to save.

“I would hope so.”

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