“What’s nine? Mom” It took a minute for the question to register because I was sitting on the floor surrounded by my kids and the grands watching the Raiders lose and eating Round Table Pizza lots of my favorites altogether at once. A rare day in our lives now and I was just breathing in every second. But I knew exactly what he was asking me. Meghan Joy had arrived safe and sound and now our little clan was 9.
I have always shaped and referred to our family as a team because I believe kids need to know that they are a part of something that is bigger than themselves, that who they are represents who we are as a family. Each individual contributes to the whole or detracts from it. So when they were teenagers I started referring to us as the Fantastic Four. Not as a point of pride but as a point of responsibility, that together we can make a difference in the world in the way we conduct ourselves and in living out our faith in a concrete way.
So first the Fantastic Four…then the Fab Five when Mychal found his Allison…the Spectacular Six when Taylor found his Niana…The Magnificent 7 when our first grand Judah Gabriel was born…the Great Eight when Olivia Jo made her rather dramatic arrival. And now Mychal was asking me what 9 was? I answered I hadn’t really decided because I hadn’t found one I liked yet I had considered Nifty but that word felt a little to old fashioned to me. And so everyone started throwing out ideas that either rhymed or were alliterative and we finally came to noble or divine but we didn’t pick one because with a beautiful new born and 2 very busy toddlers in the house it is easy to get distracted.
But I have been thinking about it since that day and reliving many of the moments since our little Meghan was born and our time together and trying to choose one that represents Meghan and our family now.
The moment I walked into the hospital room and saw Allison holding Meghan in her arms I realized that I had been kind of holding my breath. I had been praying throughout the day that the C section delivery would go smoothly and that the baby would be healthy with no complications because I just didn’t think our family could face that again. One NICU baby is all any family can handle. But once you have been there you just can’t exhale until you know for sure that you are not going there again. I think I was still in exhale mode when Mychal asked me if I wanted to hold her and on the day she was born I held Meghan Joy in my arms…Divine.
A few minutes later Olivia Jo arrived with Allison’s parents and we all watched as she saw her little sister for the first time. We got a picture of the 4 of them and after a bit were off to feed Mychal before taking Olivia home with us for a couple days. We had dinner in a darling little Mexican restaurant downtown and talked about the day’s events and the gratitude we felt that everything was perfect with our little Meghan while Olivia charmed everyone around her. Then we loaded her up and took her to our house for her first ever sleep over at Mimi and Pops house…Divine.
A few short days later after working 5 hours in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, Taylor and his family got on a plane and flew to California so we could all be together for Thanksgiving and to meet Meghan Joy.
5 hours on a plane with a very active 18 month old on a holiday.
This is love, this is family. On Friday Mychal and his family of 4 made the trek to our home for our Thanksgiving Feast. Allison only 7 days out from a C section and pumping every 2 or 3 hours, they brought everything they needed so they could stay the whole day so we could have this very precious time together…Noble.
We were altogether, leaning in and taking turns holding Meghan and playing with Judah and Olivia. I had done as much ahead of time as I could so I wouldn’t miss anything and I wanted to take the load off of all of these young parents because I remember those days of sleeplessness and toddlers who never sit still and how hard it is to travel with little ones. So I set the table, cooked and got everything ready. And even though I knew it would be fast and furious to all sit around the table with 2 toddlers, I still wanted that moment and that is about what we had because a few minutes in Meghan woke up and wanted to be fed. I had finished eating so I told Allison I would take her so she could eat and enjoy her meal. I did most of the cleanup and played with the toddlers too. This was my gift of love to them because I wanted to serve my family and honor all the efforts they had made so we could be together. Later in the evening I was in the kitchen alone and Taylor walked in and hugged me tight and said “I saw you Mom, I saw you taking care of everyone, all the work you did to make today so special. I saw you Mom. It was a great Thanksgiving day and I want you to know I saw all you did for us.” As Mychal was leaving later in the evening, he stood in the garage with me and hugged me tight and said “It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, Mom! Really a great day!” and he was off to get his family home. Those 2 moments, those words from my Sons to me…Divine.
It can be challenging to come together after being apart for so long, after life changes the dynamics of a family. Children added, life circumstances that look different and changing approaches to faith, politics and social awareness and I was proud of my family for not letting any of that rule the day. There was a minor dust up over pro-apple-juice vs anti-apple-juice but no blood was drawn or heat ignited and the principle players were soft and respectful in their opinions and then returned to their corners. This is the stance families should take when it comes to time together on the holidays and other special family days. Focus on the common ground and the history you share. Reserve difficult conversations and dealing with serious matters that are challenging for times that have been primarily arranged to do just that. Those things can be done at appointed times when everyone is ready to go to those painful places and are ready to do the work needed to heal, move forward or make hard choices.
Special days are for sharing the beauty of who we are together.
Judah and Olivia gave us a good example of this when sitting in the high chair Judah shared his pumpkin pie with Olivia (who had already had some pie) as she stood in front him. The picture of Judah spoon feeding Olivia will be with me always. It was a great moment and I hope the beginning of a fun friendship and deep bond between cousins…Noble.
But it is often the unexpected moments that you prayed would happen but cannot be orchestrated because authenticity and genuine interaction is what gives them life. On Sunday afternoon after the game was over the guys and I took the toddlers out for a walk, Olivia in her stroller and Judah walking in between, on, and around his Dad and Uncle. I was out ahead of them and so I don’t know how the conversation started but when I caught snippets of it I smiled to myself. So I stayed out in front to give them privacy but close enough to overhear a bit too, it’s what Moms do.
It is hard when your adult children are in different life spaces, especially when the older brother is living with his in-laws, has lost a job and just had a second child very close to the first and the little brother owns his own home, and was promoted 3 times in the last year. How will that feel when they are together? I had been praying about that and honestly worrying about it too.
And all of a sudden they were walking and talking about it. Mychal being vulnerable and sharing about the job loss and Taylor being supportive and encouraging. They were sharing this burden together, letting love and relationship lead the way. Never underestimate the power of a quiet walk. Kindness, support and vulnerable truthfulness deepening the conversation and life bond.
Together they were overcoming this life space…Noble and a little Divine too.
I still haven’t decided which word works best for us especially when you look up the definitions it can be a bit intimidating.
Noble besides meaning of royal birth also means having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.
Divine beside the obvious reference to Deity also means excellent or delightful. All I know is our time together was delightful and excellent because we chose to be our best selves and we chose peace instead of right. We chose to preserve this time as sacred and we chose to care for each other
. Like all families we have had our growing pains, our moments when we were less than our best. When making room for the new was harder than anticipated and understanding was limited because emotions were not. But those moments are private and not to be shared outside the family because part of forgiving and moving forward is not exposing those moments to public criticism. Love covers and protects.
What I appreciated so much about our time together this Thanksgiving was the effort by each individual to contribute their best self and to offer empathy and compassion to each other.
We were our best selves and that is both Noble and Divine.