He told me not to get up from my spot on the couch when he and Auntie walked through the door. He asked me not to sweep and mop the floors beforehand, and to stop apologizing for a smattering of breakfast crumbs on the dining room table.
“We’re family!” he said to me, right arm raised in reminder, fingers jabbing the air for emphasis. This wasn’t the first time he’d reminded me to stop treating him like a guest, but sometimes it takes awhile for truth to sink in, for lessons to be learned.
You see, sometimes there exists within me a pint-sized Martha Stewart who burrows under my skin, digging into my soul like an unwelcome parasite. A pious woman, she begs me believe that my house must be spotless and the table set with only the most Pinterest-worthy of decorations.
The food, she whispers, must be prepared in the most timely of manners. As the hostess, I should have time to not only rest (with slices of chilled English cucumbers adorned to tired, puffy eyes), but also to perhaps dab a bit of rouge to pinched cheeks before the guests arrive.
Never mind the toddler who runs circles around the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the hallway, stripped down to nothing but black and yellow Batman underwear. He wildly waves his superhero stuffed monkey in the air and yells to no one in particular, “No more monkeys jump on bed! No more monkeys jump on bed!”
Never mind his baby brother, the one I’ve propped upright in the bouncer in hopes that he’ll be entertained for just a few minutes longer. He has, of course, declared with battling screams that he is done.
Never mind the boxes still scattered throughout the house from our move only weeks prior, and the fact that I’ve been wearing the same clothes out of a single suitcase for the past six weeks.
Never mind that I’m still not sure where the wine opener is and I haven’t yet found the bottle of vanilla, so we can’t further prolong the unpacking process with a batch of homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, or a swirling glass of Pinot Noir.
Never mind that we’re supposed to eat in less than ten minutes, even though I haven’t defrosted or prepped the hamburger patties for grilling, nor have I made the salad or set the table or checked the freezer to see if we have ice cream for the promised frozen dessert treat.
Never mind, never mind, never mind it all.
Never mind the mess and the chaos and the reality of my everyday life, because in the myriad of lies and truths there’s one thing I’ve forgotten: the people who walk through our front doors aren’t guests, they’re family.
And when someone is family, they enter the mess, gladly, yearningly.
When someone is family, they not only enter the insanity, but they embrace the insanity. They see that you’re trying your hardest to survive, and they’re grateful that you’d invite them in to the muck and the mess, the hard and the good.
Because they don’t want to be entertained – they just want to be welcomed. They don’t want a rehearsed air of civilities, but they want to borrow a superhero cape and run around circles around the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the hallway, too. They want to hold the baby and feed the baby and love the baby, and they want to help cut the tomatoes and the cucumber and the avocado for the salad. They want to learn their way around your kitchen and teach you how to make the perfect Dijon vinaigrette.
And when dinner is served, eventually, and the burgers are a little too done, and the fries take a longer than usual, and one of the buns has holes poked in the sides from the two year old superhero who now sits at your table, you still look at each other and give thanks.
You give thanks because you’ve let them into the mess, and you’ve broken bread together, and you’ve been family.
This was written a few months back, right after we moved …but I’d say it’s just as appropriate now as it was then. I am so appreciative of my aunt and uncle who live nearby, and the times we get to enter into the normalcy of everyday life and eat together. What about you? Who reminds you that “We’re family!” Who do you embrace the mess with?