Family life is messy. Everything about it is messy. The clothes all over the floor. The spills. The early-morning unmade beds. The viruses that knock us out, one by one, for weeks on end. The arguments that escalate fast and go on too long. The coffee that still needs to be made while my two-year-old leans over the espresso machine, grounds spilling into the silverware drawer, pushing random buttons. And then there’s the way my daughter needles him, finding any way possible to make him get down so she can push the buttons instead, and he grabs the closest thing he sees which is a syrup-laden fork and starts notching marks in our brand new Douglas Fir countertop yelling, “NO NO NO. I want to. NO.”
If only there were a more graceful way to get through this whole affair. If only there were enough sleep, unlimited patience, more quiet moments.
Yesterday morning was a whirlwind of making lunches and stuffing wiggly bodies into T-shirts, but Gregg took both kids out for the morning, and I had a moment to myself. I buttered a bagel and sat down with the paper right at the spot with all the fork marks. The memory of that particular morning—the fork-blunting morning—came to me, and to my surprise, made me smile. D was a whole different kid two months ago, and along with the effusive fits, I thought about how he always told the same dumb joke over and over, and it melted my heart every time it was uttered because it rode on the coattails of learning how to talk and I was always amazed that he could tell a joke at all. So, I look at the marks on the table that seemed so abusive when they were being notched, but now seem like meter points in the bigger picture. This mess, however unruly, tells a story, and it is our story. It is the story of four people trying to be themselves and get along and love each other while still loving themselves. I’m learning to appreciate—no, love—these scars that family life makes in the fabric of our lives. It’s this love that allows me to stop in an otherwise busy day and put the dishes down and grab old newspapers out of the trash and scatter them about to be our ocean, while Gregg decorates a stack of moving boxes to be ships. And now we are a band of pirates instead of an orderly group of people with folded laundry. So be it, me laddies.
Maybe it is just this kind of messiness that makes it okay to make pancakes together once a week, flour flying all over the place and half the ingredients mismeasured. But we do it anyway. The pancakes aren’t going to be perfect. Who cares? Neither are we. The important thing is that we’re doing it together, and they always taste pretty damn good, pockmarks and all.