Thursday, September 19, 2013
In the past three weeks we have celebrated four birthdays. Four. Three beautiful little boys and one gorgeous daughter. Yes, of course I am biased, completely bent toward them. And because I love them so much everything they do is colored by Noni and Mama lenses. That’s just the way it is.
Last week we had a surprise party for my third daughter. This is the birthday she leaves teenage years behind. She’s twenty now. Twenty. It’s so hard to believe. So hard to wrap my arms around the idea that this baby of mine is a woman grown. She’s had a very rough season, and we have missed her. I have attempted to describe her before, but there are some things that simply won’t translate into words. I try. I search for the right word, the perfect nuance and the correct connotation; they seem to elude me.
Her birthday falls at the latter end of all the grandsons’ birthdays. She had been to Elijah and Judah’s (Tatem lives in California, so we didn’t get to go to his.) first birthday gatherings and decided that hers was no longer that significant. But before she even decided this her sisters decided to throw her a surprise party.
The menu? White chili, red chili, cheesy queso, sweet cornbread and chunky salsa filled the kitchen counter. And pie, chocolate chip, was in the oven.
The theme? Let’s help Olivia make memories. I believe she was surprised. I don’t think she had an idea that there would be a gathering just to celebrate her. I hope she now understands otherwise. My second daughter and her husband just purchased a grand little house on an old historical street. This little (relatively speaking) house is full of character and charm—made more so by a lot of work and sweat and tears. To break in this new place their first gathering of people was this surprise party for one of the many sisters. How appropriate. How fitting that the christening of their kitchen, their home, would be to celebrate family. One more investment into the heart of the house for them. Can you tell I’m proud?
During the party my son-in-law and husband built a fire in their newly constructed fire pit. The fire glowed in its center. Flames leaped and danced over, in and around the dry wood—crackling and sputtering. It licked through the holes and wrapped around the curves of the logs. The coals and embers burned down to a deep crimson. Even through the char and ash they radiated heat and light. I sat with Judah snuggled in my arms watching. The night was perfect: cool with just a tinge of crisp in the air. The cicadas and crickets sang loudly. Judah listened intently. He turned to me his eyes wide and asked whas that? The phrase becomes one word and I love to hear him ask it. About anything. He waited for me to answer, and then listened again. He twisted and turned to find the source then he asked me again. And I answered. Elijah sat in his mama’s lap, sprawled and loose, the back of his head tucked into her chest.
Finally both little boys fell asleep and it grew even quieter. I sat in my chair, great slumbering baby in my arms, and just looked around at the fire, at my son-in-law and my husband. My spirit expanded. I gazed at the fire and my sight followed the curve of the stone wall of the fire pit. I laughed at my husband’s meticulous marshmallow roasting (golden brown on the outside and completely melted on the inside). I listened to the string of music coming from a phone that lay on the bench near me. Most of the music was old—crooners and legends from years ago. Funny how I remembered the words.
My spirit had been crimped and twisted and crooked all day. But there in the dark, beside the fire and heat and with all my children nearby, my spirit at last began to straighten out—not all the way, but slowly like a scroll kept rolled too long.
I twisted to see where every one had scattered. The girls were back in the kitchen cutting pie. I couldn’t hear them, but I could see them through the glass of the back patio doors. They were illumined; their faces and their bodies framed by the light of the door. I couldn’t take my eyes away from them. I stared at them—these beautiful daughters of mine—through the glass and the silence.
And I was so proud. So humbled. So full.
I know these girls. I know their strengths. I know their weaknesses. I know their flaws. I know their passions. I’ve been privy to many of their successes and many of their failures. I have watched them choose poorly; I have watched them choose wisely. I know their stories—the good chapters and the bad.
And I was and am so proud. So humbled. So full.
In that brief moment as I watched them I realized as well as I know them I still see them through a glass dimly. My vision and perception obstructed by darkness and windowpanes. My hearing impaired by distance and closed doors, and yet they are so incredibly precious to me—these daughters of mine. So broken, so flawed. So stunningly beautiful. So incredibly gifted. So tremendously kind.
If I, who am twisted and crooked, can be this proud of my children and love them this much then how much more do I need multiply to even dip into the Father’s store for them? For me? For us?
If I, who am crimped and flawed, can detect this much extraordinary beauty in them, then how much more can the Father see in them? In me? In us?
And there by the fire, the scroll of my too tight spirit began to unroll. And praise filled my heart for the first time that day.