A rare gift for any family with “adulting” children, we spent two whole months together. Timing really is everything. My eldest, Ryan, living and working as a chef in Chicago, took two months between jobs to spend at home for the holidays. At the same time, my younger two (one a senior at college, the other a sophomore), Tyler and Alexa have also been home for their winter break.
At any given moment, my house is mayhem. Scraps on the floor, pillows strewn about the living room (often not where they are suppose to be– Ryan says I have a pillow problem), cups and candy wrappers left on coffee tables, shoes by the door, clothes (bathrobe, sweatshirt, coats and hats, currently) thrown over the railing that separates living room from kitchen, dishes from last night’s midnight food craving left in the sink, technology and chords on the kitchen table, classic music playing in one room, hip hop in the other, and somewhere in the middle one of them on the laptop binge watching Shameless or Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
I stand back, taking it all in. Half of me is feeling really disheveled. The other half is telling the first half to enjoy it because I know full well when the chaos is gone, there will be silence.
When my babies were little and I felt so overwhelmed that I needed a break, even just to steal away for an hour to browse in stores or grocery shop alone, I couldn’t wait to get back to them.
When my husband and I finally got away for a weekend, just the two of us, we spent most of it talking about how it would be different if the kids were here. When my eldest went off to college for that first time, I mourned as if he’d never be home again.
Two months is certainly a gift– albeit an extended one. It’s permitted me to enjoy the little things, to bask in them even. When my children were small, I found myself so caught up in the mayhem, that I didn’t realize happiness when it was right in front of me. I worried about what was next– the planning, the making sure everything wasn’t about to fall apart. Now, in my fifties (yes, my fifties, OMG!), finally, I recognize happiness in the precise moment it occurs.
The annual Thanksgiving photo shoot that my children insist upon, out in the backyard at my dad’s while they goof around, attempting to pose, and I snap, snap, snap capturing them laughing and loving each other. When we sit around a bar table in SoHo, each of us sipping cocktails, for the first time together, losing ourselves in mundane conversation about the reservations we’re waiting for or the mild weather in December. At home in the kitchen, I share my grandmother’s manicotti recipe with Ryan and he shows me how to cautiously use a mandolin or how to emulsify a parsley garnish for chicken cacciatore over polenta. Laboring over plans with Alexa for a kitchen remodeling dream that we both share for different reasons. The pride I feel as they immerse themselves in conversation with elders of family at a Christmas party where they didn’t think they wanted to be. Waking up on Christmas morning without the wide-eyed excitement to see what Santa brings, but, instead, the relaxed contentment that we’re able to share our gift opening ritual together.The off-the-cuff comments Tyler makes, and the laughter that ensues, while playing Cards Against Humanity with three generations of family. At night, we sit around the Rangers on the television, cheering, eating popcorn, talking only during commercials. Watching Anthony referee an alumni high school hockey game where both of his sons are players, something they haven’t done together in eight years. The sounds of all of them downstairs competing at darts, and Alexa winning. Ryan calls Alexa a lady for the first time and she feels like they are finally equal. Tyler and Ryan resuming their talent of holding entire conversations with memorized lines from different movies leaving the rest of us bewildered. Watching the pride on the faces of their grandparents as they look at them lovingly because I know they are enjoying this as much as I am (or maybe a little bit more). The kisses I bestow upon their foreheads at night because I haven’t in a long time and I can. Ryan looking up at me on the last night, saying, “You have me for one more night,” and I smile because I do.
I’m about being present enough to recognize these seemingly insignificant moments when they present themselves. I’m about living in them. I’m about collecting them like the cherished tokens that they are. So, when the chaos has passed and the calm is here– the silence– I can recollect, I can look forward, I can live in the moment not worrying that there aren’t more to come.