Perhaps it's the kids getting older and the fact that conversations about schools, ratings and of course the price tag have entered our home. Perhaps it's turning thirty and the overabundance of gray hairs that furtively lie beneath our pillowcases these days. Or the fact that we are less than two years from our ten year wedding anniversary. In reality, it's probably a little bit of everything but it has me thinking about the notion of family more than ever. What is family? How do you become a family? When does it truly begin?
Does it begin that day in PSYCH 101 when you exchange phone numbers on scraps of paper? Or is it much later when he gets on one knee? Or the day you don the white dress? Or during the first ultrasound? It's hard to pin point the exact moment you go from "me" to "us."
And yet regardless of when or where it starts so many of us find ourselves one day ankle deep in cheerios administering pink fluid from thick syringes, wiping noses, reading I Am a Bunny and simultaneously calling the preschool and texting your nanny. And every once in a while you get a freeze frame and you look at these two humans you created with their layered and entirely unique personalities, you look at the person you married who you often feel you now know better than you know yourself and you wonder... How?? How are there kid'SSSS?? How have we been together for a decade?? How is there a mortgage? And chickens? And a cat? And budgets, and discussions of carseats and sleep specialists and how have we gone through two strollers, one crib and dozens of bottles, onesies and shoes? Some days it seems like it happens in the blink of an eye.
You wake up, make coffee, stretch t-shirts over tiny limbs, dispose of diapers containing eight hours worth of urine, feed the cat, browse your phone, do some work, dispense snacks, netflix, tuck in two little ones for their daily naps, do some more work, make lunch, make snacks, make dinner, give baths, put to bed, fall asleep and wake up and doing it all over again. And it all seems mundane and often thankless and useless and yet in the middle of it all we all grow up. We make difficult decisions and pray we made the right choice. We love and we hurt and we cry and laugh. We make memories that will endure for decades in the recesses of our minds and bring new life into this world. We try to find ourselves in the midst of the chaos and allow ourselves to be lost as well for there is something valuable in being carried mindlessly by the waves of life. We hold tight to our dreams and spin them into golden yarn. We also learn to let go of our dreams and watch that golden balloon sail far away but never so far that we cannot feel it in the form of a lump in our throat.
Life moves in different currents there are seasons that pass by in what feels like an instant and seasons that feel heavy and never ending. And through all of this we remain - the four of us. When the doors close and the lights are dimmed there are just four of us that really KNOW. Only we have truly seen it all, felt it all and understand it all. And I find that I draw so much comfort from that thought. How marvelous to have "my" people. Over the years we have become so intertwined, so familiar and so dear that each new storm is a little easier to bear, together. We have a secret that we hold close to our bosoms and the secret is "us." No one else can ever know, has ever seen or will see. We share something unique and valuable and irreplaceable for though memories can be recounted and shared only the owner can truly savor them for what they are. To other's it's simply a "story" to us it's our life.
Life as a family of four is often overwhelming. Most of the time I feel completely inadequate as a parent, a wife, a woman. At times the world just feels like one closed door after another, dark and lonely and somber. And then I look around at my people. The little ones I nurture, the man I love. And I feel, not invincible, but lucky. Lucky to have so much love. Lucky to feel so accepted and special. Lucky to feel so understood. Lucky to be a part of this "us."
Right now as we are bombarded with thoughts of brown paper packages tied up with string and "the perfect gift for that special someone on your list" I look at everything I already have and I feel like Christmas truly did come early... Years and years ago.
"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of
something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.