Dishes clang. Voices, so many voices. Laughing. Chatting. Whining. Food falling on the floor. My head spins back and forth, listening to the stories. Laughing at the jokes. Catch the cup. Give a reminder. Smile and nod. Cut some food. Reach for a falling fork. Life is moving so fast, on fast forward, a reel playing in front of me and I’m trying to keep up.
And then for a second. Just a second. My glimpse catches his and I smile. He’s listening to the stories too. The story from my son, his step son, our son. He’s thirteen and the story is thirteen too, but he’s listening. Intently. And he’s enjoying. He’s listening and he’s teaching, in the swirling mess this moment is. And the thirteen year old. He’s talking and he’s learning, in the swirling mess this moment is. My heart is full. The three year old adds to his story, her two cents make us all laugh. Sit down, I say, through laughter. Hold still. Take another bite. She wraps her sticky hands around the 11 year old’s neck. They are bonding. They are learning to love. He puts up with the hug, the sticky, because that’s who he is. His heart is full and so is hers. My eyes shift. So much noise flowing from my left. Always so much noise. I shush. She’s nine. She giggles. Tells us a story so grand and confusing we can’t help but enjoy. She can’t find the words she needs but we listen. We teach. We make mistakes. We learn. Where would this one be if she hadn’t landed here? Who would our family be without her here?
And for a second, just a second, everything moves slow. I see our family. Every night, at this table. But for a moment I SEE our family. All the pieces that make us us. Broken hearts that led us here. Differences. The same. Our shortcomings and theirs. Gaps that still need to be filled. Yet we are whole and perfect. This is my family. It moves. It breathes. Together, with all the parts and pieces. Broken pieces. Whole pieces. The pieces make us. And for a moment my heart is filled full. I love our broken. I love the gaps. I love the way redemption runs through our dinner table like a ribbon, tying us all together. The thirteen year old origami obsession. The 9 year old’s own way of describing the world. The 11 year old, sure and steady, but sometimes hiding. The 3 year old, bouncing around, ruining any chance of sacred quiet. And him, riding the waves with me, loving them, learning. My heart swells. Thankful.
And suddenly everything spins again. The second is gone. Fast forward, moving faster than I can. A spilled drink. An unkind word. Correction. Interruption. And our life keeps flowing. I can’t catch up. I’m trying but its moving fast. We swirl on with the chaos of the storm. The storm that is family. And life. And dinner time. But I hold that second. I hold it close. I hold it in my heart. And as I move and catch and listen, I wait. I wait for the next slow second. I look for it and when it comes I hold it close too. I let it carry me. To the next slow second. I will keep moving. Keep trying to catch up. Keep holding the seconds. Holding them when I ‘m tired. When I’m weary. Close my eyes. See the seconds. See my family in all its broken beauty. See THEM. So I can keep loving them. Thankful. Eyes wide open. I can love them.