A few weeks ago I was sitting in a restaurant alone, doing some work. I hadn't even noticed the family at the table next to me. They were unremarkable; late forty-something mother and father, along with a typical snotty teenage daughter: tight jeans, flipflops, long dyed hair, acrylic nails, continuously texting into a cell phone in her lap. But at some point the heat of their conversation drew me in like a firefly; the pain and thickness of it making it hard for me to swallow my meal. It went something like this:
MOM PUTS ARM AROUND TEENAGE DAUGHTER. DAUGHTER SHRUGS IT OFF.
MOM: Why do you always pull away from me?
DAUGHTER: Maybe you should be nicer to me.
MOM: I gave birth to you. Twelve or thirteen years ago you used to skip when you saw me, you used to love me so much. I think you’re the one that changed.
DAUGHTER: You never really listen to me.
DAD, ACROSS THE TABLE, BEGINS LAUGHING UNCOMFORTABLY AND MAKES A BAD JOKE TO BREAK THE TENSION. DAUGHTER GIVES HIM A DIRTY LOOK.
DAD (HURT, TO DAUGHTER): You read so much into what I say. Do you think every thing has to be a lesson – can’t I just be funny?
This just about tore my heart out. It made me want to take the whole family up in my arms and squeeze them tightly. It made me yearn for the Velcro-like relationship I seem to have with both of my very young children right now, the kind where when I leave the room, they know it and begin alerting the media. Lately, I've been thinking of this family on days when my personal space is non-existant and I don't know if I can take another few hours of not having a single thought, a single moment to myself. I bring it to mind when all of us are driving in the car and Reese, my four-year old announces, with passion:
"I LOVE you guys. I love my whole family: Mommy, Daddy, Finnie, Rosie. I want to be with you guys forever."
Having glimpsed the future, I know we're not too good, not too in love, not too anything, to avoid it completely. Somehow the hard moments are easier knowing this and the sweetest ones, somehow sweeter.
The other day, Reese and I were, for unknown reasons, sitting on the kitchen floor leaning against the refrigerator, and she said to me: "You are my best friend Mama, my bestest friend." Then she ran off to take care of four-old business, her brother and she continuing their ongoing quest to dismantle the house piece by piece.
I sat there, savoring her words like fine chocolate, knowing their value.