I usually fly through the house. Always on one mission or another, I attempt warp speed on the longer stretches, especially the hallway. But every once in a while I pause to gaze at the photo gallery hung in the hall. It contains photographs of my two children, chronicling the time from when they were toddlers, small children, and teenagers, to more current photos of them as adults. A grandchild and son-in-law are included as well.
These are my favorite photos. There are no studio shots. These are the unguarded glances at the souls of my family: The smile that I seldom witnessed on the pensive one. The devilish look of a wicked sense of humor. The deep set eyes of one who is older than his years. It’s a place where I pause to feel close.
Sometimes I look at those toddlers and wonder where they went. What happened to that eight year old with the scraped and battered nose from a bad bike fall? Where is the munchkin munching popcorn on the porch? When did these handsome adults enter my life? Surely they’re not the same people as the wee ones. It’s a fleeting stolen moment, however, and I soon fire up the engines and attain warp speed again.
I love having adult children, even pseudo-adults. It’s so marvelous to see them come into their own place in the world. It’s even better to have an adult relationship with them.
Occasionally on Sundays the clan gathers at our house. All my chicks, the chick-in-law, and the grandchick converge for barbecue and a few cold drinks. Before they agree to come, the conversation usually starts with menu questions (as if they won’t come over if they don’t like what I’m serving). Then come the requests. “If we’re grilling, can you do ribs?” “Grandma, I really like sausage.” “Will you make potato salad?” Of course all requests are honored.
Such was a recent Sunday. There had been a few small chores to do and the extra hands and backs made the work go a lot easier. Everyone pitched in, even the smallest pair of hands among us. While the meat was cooking, we ensconced ourselves on the deck, teasing each other unmercifully and enjoying a perfectly beautiful day. With frequent trips to check progress at the barbecue pit and an occasional ball thrown for the dog to fetch, we passed the afternoon as everything a family should be.
The discussion led to wild stories of teenage years. Or I should say stories of the wild teenage years. It’s interesting to see both sides now that we’ve all passed through adolescence. Personally I am convinced (especially in the case of my daughter) that when she was thirteen, aliens came and took her away. In her place they left a monster that looked and sounded just like her but couldn’t possibly be my child. When she was seventeen, the aliens brought back my lovely daughter and took their monster away. It’s the only viable explanation. Of course she tells the same story about me.
I vocalized my contemplation of the chances of accomplishing the morning’s tasks, had they all still been teenagers. I remember it well. The asking, strongly requesting, demanding, pleading, demanding again, negotiating conditions, threatening and finally surrendering and doing it myself. We joked about just what it would have taken to get dirt hauled and the shed cleaned out ten years ago. The conversation quickly turned outrageous and a new wave of laughter and teasing passed over us all.
I had been working on a couple of spring projects in the garden. One was a path at the front of the house. My son had helped dig out the three-foot-wide path. I had lined the sides with metal edging and had begun to haul the crushed granite in for fill.
My mate arose from the table first and, gathering shovel and wheelbarrow, he began hauling the rest of the granite to the path. I followed with the rake and began the task of smoothing out the granite. Then another pair of shoes started the process of tamping it down and making it the solid path it would become. Soon we were all stomping, even with the smallest shoes among us, and carrying on to a beat heard collectively.
It wasn’t a Hallmark moment. No card could convey the joy or silliness of the moment. It wasn’t a Kodak moment either. We probably looked like a bunch of fools who all stood in the same ant pile. This is the stuff memories are made of. This is what life is made of. I will not walk the path without thinking of this day.
Fully stuffed with barbecue and fully satisfied with our labors, we retired once again to the deck. I fell into the hammock with a five year old piled on top of me. We swung to the beat of a family bonding as I surveyed my chicks. The chick-in-law is especially nice. He is the other child I never had. The one I didn’t have to put braces on. The one I didn’t stay up all night with or waiting up for, but get to love nonetheless. He is one of life’s ‘little extras’…the true lagniappe.