My brother John came for Thanksgiving one year, back when Gram was still cooking Thanksgiving dinner and we were all helpers. It was one of the rare years when we were all there, all seven kids with their various familial flocks. John drove down from Boise and brought with him his new wife, LaNae. We all tried to be good and kind, knowing she might feel a little awkward because we all had a natural feeling of devotion to his first wife who was the mother of his kids. It was a typical Thanksgiving gathering; lots of people and lots of plans and lots of hiccups in those plans. Our mother is a strong woman, very much a leader of the pack kind of gal, and so we should not be surprised that she raised a few strong willed children: Lots of chiefs; not enough injuns, if you know what I mean. I cut my spuds THIS way to boil them. My sister cuts them THAT way. One likes the napkins folded under the forks, another likes them in a complicated flower type fold sitting in the middle of the plate. Against the clanging of utensils and the thumping of cupboard doors comes scattered conversation:
“Don’t you think we need a little more salt in that gravy?”
“Do you really want that much brown sugar in those yams?”
Nothing earth shattering. We all get along fine and it works out in the end. There's plenty of laughter. Dinner is always yummy and the dishes always get done and we sing the night away after it’s all over.
But we are tired.
That night John, finally alone with his wife, asked her what she thought of his family.
“It’s like being around six of you!”
(I, for one, was flattered.)
She’s not his wife any more.
Here’s to the people who share my mother: Sherry, Sue, John, George, Ann Marie and Libby!
So we haven’t figured out how to keep a normal schedule.
So we sit with seats between us in theaters cuz we’re all a little claustrophobic (people think we don’t like each other).
So, when we finally all get in the car and go to the store, it’s closed.
So we trip over each others’ dogs and junk in the hallway
And we wait…and wait…and wait….
We also fold our arms together to pray, regardless of our faith
And we hug and kiss each other with perfect ease
And we think of each other when random things appear
And we call each other random names like Limpy and Oose and Sharawn and Gorgeous Handsome
And we adore our mother
And accept our past
And cherish our present
And hope for our future.
Every once in a while… when I am very tired and yet feel compelled to say my personal prayer before allowing myself to sleep… a very old, very familiar string of words flows through my brain. I can almost hear my little girl voice pronouncing them:
Thank you for my family, and for this nice day.
Please bless Ameree, Libby, John, George, Susie, Sherry, Mommy and Daddy.”
It flows out exactly in that order. I’m not sure why, because it’s not chronological, and I don’t even recall calling Mom “mommy”, and definitely not calling Dad “daddy”. So it must be very old, like the vintage books I paid big money for on my bookshelf just cuz they hit me back there, in that tiny little sacred spot behind my sternum.
I let that prayer rise to the top of my brain these days, that exact prayer, because we all need the blessing. And I need to return to that child in me.
And I need to give that thanks; not so much because God needs to hear it; I suppose He knows exactly what we need and how I feel. I say it because I need to own it and shoot it upward in the right direction. Up there where we all came from, and where we’re all gonna end up again.
I can see it now, all of us lined up in the great theatre in Heaven, smiling over at each other, one empty golden seat between each of us.
HAPPY SIBLING DAY, 2012