Bonnie, Elena, and Caroline have traditions. Lots of traditions. They have end-of-the-school-year traditions, beginning-of-the-school-year traditions, birthday traditions, Halloween traditions, Christmas traditions, Thanksgiving traditions, New Year’s Eve traditions, summer traditions, break-up traditions, bad-day traditions, failed-a-test traditions, and more.
They’ve been friends all of their lives, and Caroline’s very fond of traditions. It’s a dangerous combination.
Mother’s Day is no exception. Caroline’s mom always works on Sundays, so the two of them celebrate together on the Friday before, and Bonnie doesn’t have a mom, at least not one worth mentioning. So the full weight of the girls’ holiday enthusiasm falls on Elena’s mom every year.
That’s what finds the three girls in the Gilbert kitchen at six o’clock on a Sunday morning in May of their sophomore year. Bonnie’s scrambling some eggs while Caroline flips the pancakes, and Elena is parked in front of the toaster, keeping a close eye to make sure the toast doesn’t burn, which is about the extent of her cooking ability.
Jeremy and Grayson are sitting at the table, watching with amusement. The two made an early-morning run to get some flowers, but that’s as much as the girls will let them do.
“Toast’s done,” Elena announces, pulling it out of the toaster. “Ow! Hot! Hot!”
“No way,” Caroline says, looking over. “Your toaster makes things hot? I want one like that!”
“Shut up,” Elena orders, pointing a knife at her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Bonnie says. “Put the knife down, Elena. We agreed. You’re not allowed to use knives anymore.”
“When did we agree to that?” Elena demands.
“After the Butter Disaster of 2008,” Caroline informs her. “We voted on it.”
“It passed with two ‘yea’s and one abstention,” Bonnie confirms, nodding. “If you wanted a say, you really should’ve come to the meeting.”
“I was unconscious!” Elena exclaims.
“Exactly,” Bonnie and Caroline chorus.
Jeremy puts his head down on his arms, laughing helplessly.
Elena rolls her eyes and returns to buttering the toast. Caroline slides the pancakes (heart-shaped, naturally) out of the pan and onto a plate. At almost the same time, Bonnie pulls the eggs off the burner. Elena holds out the plate bearing the freshly-buttered toast and Bonnie scoops the eggs onto it. It’s taken a lot of practice, but they’ve managed to get the timing down perfectly.
“My turn!” Jeremy declares, jumping out of his seat. He’s still breathless from laughter, but he bounces over to the fridge with his usual energy. He pours the orange juice without spilling any (a major improvement from last year) and places the glass on the tray with a flourish.
Caroline and Elena add the plates, along with some silverware and an elegantly folded napkin. The latter causes everyone to roll their eyes at Caroline, who pointedly ignores them. Bonnie adds some salt to the eggs while Jeremy pulls the syrup out of the fridge, and then the four of them examine the tray.
“What are we forgetting?” Jeremy asks.
“Pancakes, eggs, toast,” Caroline counts off.
“OJ, syrup, salt,” Bonnie continues.
“Silverware, napkin—flowers!” Elena realizes. “Dad?”
Grayson obligingly holds up the bouquet he and Jeremy picked out less than an hour ago.
“Got them,” he confirms. “Are we ready?”
The girls examine the tray again, then each other. They nod and then turn their attention to Jeremy, who bears their trifold examination with a patience borne of years of experience.
“Ready!” the girls declare once they’ve ensured that no one’s wearing any food.
After a brief round of rock-paper-scissors, Elena picks up the tray and leads the way to the master bedroom. Miranda is already awake, reading a book. She knows from previous experience that getting out of bed before the girls say so will lead to weeks of pouting, so she’s learned to enjoy the extra time in bed on Mother’s Day.
Elena carries the tray over to her mother as Bonnie and Caroline begin singing the Mother’s Day song (which sounds, in both tune and lyrics, suspiciously similar to the birthday song). Miranda accepts the tray and kisses Elena’s cheek as the song finishes with a long, drawn out note.
“Thank you, girls,” Miranda says. “This looks wonderful. Caroline, is the napkin your work?”
“Of course!” Caroline smiles, bouncing over to accept her own kiss.
“It’s lovely,” Miranda assures her. “Bonnie, the eggs look perfect. Elena, are you still in one piece?”
Elena pouts at her playfully, then extends her arms to allow for inspection.
“Everything’s still in place,” she confirms.
Bonnie brings the flowers over and receives her kiss. Jeremy, not to be outdone, brings out a card he’s drawn. Miranda exclaims over it, kisses his cheek, and digs into her breakfast.
“Perfect,” she proclaims. The girls high five each other, then sit down on the empty side of the bed. Jeremy gingerly lies down on the end of the bed (having learned his lesson about flinging himself onto it in previous years).
Grayson leans against the doorframe and watches indulgently as the kids—his kids, as he considers them, never mind that only two of them actually belong to him—lay out their plans for the day. After Miranda approves of the plan, the kids digress, as they always do. The topic is their plans for the end of the school year, which is coming up fast. It’s the Gilberts’ turn to host the traditional end-of-semester sleepover, and Jeremy is campaigning to be allowed to spend the night at a hotel so he doesn’t have to put up with the girls.
The girls take offense at this, and Grayson suspects that it’s only the tray still balanced in Miranda’s lap that keeps things from devolving to a pillow fight. Instead, the girls begin their own campaign to have Jeremy kicked out of the house so that Bonnie and Caroline can have his room.
The birds are singing, his kids are playfully sniping at one another, and his wife’s delighted, bubbly laugh sounds above it all. Life, Grayson Gilbert decides, is absolutely perfect.