They're home. They're all here. They're all together.
My kids, under one roof. Gathered around one table at Italian Delight for the post-Alice In Wonderland celebration meal. Pizzas and water and incredible stories and conversation.
Tales of their experiences with Tony and his passion for rescuing (and releasing) turtles; they tell one another these stories while he watches and listens, his story being woven into the fabric of the family. They talk about "broccoli knots" and tell tales about their experiences at Italian Delight with their dad. They tell the truth about what happened while I was out of town and Tony took care of everything (hmmm...)
They talk on top of one another and interrupt one another constantly. They eat pizza and laugh and talk and laugh and laugh. And Shannon says, "No! Wait! Listen to THIS!", launching into some story about one of her best JMU friends and a moldy piece of bread. We laugh and finish the pizza and cram all seven of us into the five available seats in the Suburban, because we haven't had time to unpack Shannon's stuff from Harrisonburg. And then they laugh about my driving and Tony's driving and somebody asks about the quickest path between two points, and somebody answers, "Uh - a diagonal line?" and then the hooting starts up, with the weak defense being, "But you know I'm not good in math!!!"
I laugh, and deep inside wells up this mighty wave of something like joy and peace and happiness and delirium all at once. It's maternal and it's social. It's this awareness, this external observation, a still, small voice that notes, "Wow! These are just such amazing, funny people!"
Home, and Sarah's working out the chords for an Adele song on the piano. Daniel drums, and David watches a basketball game. Shannon calls Travis and Syd tries to wipe the red hearts off her face from the play. The house is full.
I can hardly get a word in edgewise when they are all together. They take on a life of their own, and the dynamic is incredible. It is like something living, active, morphing in and out of joy and sorrow and anxiety and compassion and astonishment, swirling around five distinct personalities. I sat in the restaurant tonight and just watched - and laughed - and watched, with this huge knot in my chest. Some mixture of pride and joy and even some sorrow, for the memories, the nostalgia...
I am never prouder of my kids than when they are together. They have done amazing things - terrific accomplishments and performances and efforts of artistic, scholastic and athletic brilliance. They've done good things. But when they are together, they are a family. They are for one another and with one another in a way that cannot be duplicated. They possess a rare and unique thing in the relationships they have with one another, and as they grow older, I think they begin to sense it and value it more and more.
I just sit back and watch. I am so grateful, and quite taken aback.
But most of all, content.