It’s a strange feeling in the house these days, a little quieter than we are used to. There are good and bad things about it. It was framed and question-marked with a tiny gesture from our middle daughter last night. She called to get picked up from work, and oddly I am relieved that there is someone to bring home to our somewhat empty house where children suddenly exit the nest like some kind of secret that was kept for so long that it surprises you, even when you knew about it. My wife went to fetch her because I was encumbered with meal preparations. It seems odd to want to rush home from work to make a meal. It is not about the food, it is a chance to leave the craziness of work and the road, and find myself in the company of these fellow travellers in this nest that we have worked so hard to establish.
Sometimes I feel like a veritable pioneer. There is a form to those stories where people leave a foreign country, find a piece of soil and make their stand on that patch of green. Maybe the green part took a bit of coaxing. They may have had to nurse along a patch of forest that gets progressively cleared as a cabin goes up, and the small cabin gets bigger and becomes filled with children. Somehow those stories do not escape me, I have also been part and parcel of that great adventure called setting up home.
It crossed my mind when my eldest daughter left. She loaded a car with odds and ends of furniture that would do for now. I have to remember to send some cash when I can, because at this stage of the game, nothing says “I love you” like whatever help we can offer to help her set up house and home. The ingredients are basically the same, but she is much earlier on in the same story.
Back to supper. I am occasionally given to inspiration and it gives my wife some welcome relief even though my attempt at recipes is somewhat bombastic. My kids tell me I am on and off in the cooking department. My lexicon of trial and error tends to be either Mexican or Oriental. Tonight I made Asian tacos with some of that marinated thinly sliced brisket that is not the kind of fare we usually see in the west.
My daughter came in and got happily busy with her phone, sitting in the kitchen. I am not sure if it is good or bad that she sits here while I work. I think it is a comfort for her. The end of every party is in the kitchen and it is also a good place to start. Her mom is in the same mode, checking snap chats, the family instagram, and facebook. When I hastily set up dinner around them, bustling around and moving plants and fruit bowls, they are more present. The food was good enough, somewhat experimental and tomorrow it will be the same. There is some creative relief all round for anything new in this established routine we have.
My daughter suddenly, in the midst of cleanup, kisses her mom on the cheek tenderly and quietly. She comes over to me and does the same. It is a tiny gesture that says a lot in the ebb and flow of children. I suspect that we have done something right, that we have not totally messed them up with our own neurosis or collected oddities. For some reason they turn out just how they turn out and each one is different. They are their own little treasures, launching their own special mix out into the world. I don’t know what the kiss was for but I will take it. I suspect that in some measure she is feeling what I am also feeling, the great relief to come to this place where we gather to enact the drama and comedy of life all together in this thing we call family. We are far from perfect, a work in progress really, building even as we change back and forth in numbers as children come and go.
There is this house. I come into a room and see things I have built. I see my wife’s intense cleaning efforts. I see the collected things of the years including children at various stages of growth, up on display on shelves. I can see books too, things I have thought about that I found valuable. My daughter criticized me for putting out my preaching books. There was a time when I thought my vocation would be at the pulpit and I had some training in that direction. It was not a wrong turn really, just an aside that added some dimension to my understanding of place in the world, that we are not alone, and that we live and share a great mystery which is holy and wanting to be touched and taken by the every-day. Family life, might be a good part of it. I think everyone should in their life, be made to preach a sermon every year, to connect those holy dots and understand just a portion of the mystery, the part that belongs to this year, and feeds into the whole.
I end up exhausted in bed. I go to sleep earlier than my wife, who likes to play on her phone. I wake up in the dark, hearing the silence and the mystery of family breathe in the night, in this safe and quiet place we have built and gathered ourselves in. My daughter is safely sleeping in her room and I can feel my wife beside me with her measured breathing, buried in a pile of blankets. I like to be cold myself. I dangle out a leg, to feel the night air, like a tendril or an antennae. It is a strange wholeness you feel in the middle of the night when all the action has ceased. I can collect all the moving parts that eluded me throughout the day. Lying awake in the darkness is my best time to pray. Mostly I am so grateful to have this place, where people gather who are my travelling companions. This woman who came to me a stranger from a strange land, who is part of this big story. This refuge and this rock, whom we call our God, that I talk to in the night and say all those corny and inconsequential things I cannot say in person. I feel oddly close to the surface of my skin in the dark, like God is sitting in a corner watching with me, accompanying our journey through this crazy thing we call life. And I am so grateful for this home, these people, this family.
Where did I find them and how did I get so blessed? I am profoundly thankful in the dark and it is a sentiment I must remember the next morning when all the craziness begins again. I have so many things on my plate and I will get to them when this quiet darkness is ended with the first beam of sunrise. For now, I can be grateful in the dark, in this house, this home in this warm bed with this warm woman beside me, making it all happen, together.