A week before her daughter’s wedding, between 20 and 30 people camped out at their house. All week long and afterwards. Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and girls took over the family room.
Bodies housing souls taking priority over everyday tasks when traveling long distances to share celebrations.
On the day following the wedding day, the kitchen was only semi-clean, after dozens of hands grabbed breakfast before heading to church. Packages of donuts and granola bars sat at on one end of the island counter, waiting for the next time little tummies (and larger ones) growl hungry.
Her husband is a pastor, and after the morning service she invited us over for lunch. Along with another couple and another couple and two more families.
We stopped at the grocery store for jugs of tea and juice, and bags of salad stuff. She pulled out pans of lasagna and fettucine Alfredo, yeast rolls, plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups and paper plates.
In between heating one plate at a time in the microwave, ashe pologized for spots on their tile floors from the little ones’ spilled drinks all those days before. The family with eight kids wasn’t there that day, but they were coming back. No reason to worry about cleaning.
The living room connected with dining and kitchen areas, perfect for welcoming large groups.
Do you mind leftovers on paper plates? she had asked.
Nope. But are you sure you want more company?
No one minded the paper plates. Or the spots or crumbs or disarray. This was a family we visit with only once or twice a year.
We met while our husbands attended Bible college. For a handful of years we worshiped at the same church, sang together, shared holiday dinners together, had mutual friends, and then parted ways moving beyond borders or state lines to minister with other congregations.
Once in a while we find each other again, demanding an impromptu lunch or dinner be squeezed into our schedules, before heading back home.
I sang in her wedding. Now all our kiddos are grown, and two of hers are married.
The trials we’ve weathered have left their mark on our faces, in the silver strands of hair, in the calmness of maturity. (Or maybe resignation?)
We enjoyed the simple state of being, even if only for a few hours – in the same room, at the same table, sharing each other’s presence with or without words – a relaxed contentment among friends and family, after wedding festivities and a new family just begun.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Last year, the week of Thanksgiving, it would be the Preacher’s and my first major holiday without the kids. Both lived hours away, and for different reasons, wouldn’t be able to make it home.
I tried to be brave. Only came close to crying once or twice.
It’s okay, Lord. I still have so much to be thankful for. And they’ll be here in a few weeks for Christmas.
A friend had invited us to spend the day with him and his extended family, and I accepted. Because I didn’t have the time or the energy to host a dinner at our house, his invitation was answered prayer.
In between writing and ministry responsibilities, I worked two long days every week as a care-giver. On that Tuesday night driving home in dark and cold, my spirit sagged. All the negative thoughts I had succeeded in pushing away sort of dumped on top of me. And I let them. For a lot of reasons, I wanted to feel sorry for myself.
Bundled in my coat with a purse and thermal bag on one arm and my laptop bag on the other, I unlocked the front door. My husband greeted me and helped with the bags.
Well, hello there… My son stepped around from behind the door and wrapped his massive arms around me.
Then I saw my girl.
In just a few steps she was in my arms.
There they were! #1 son and #1 daughter! And my daughter’s friend, with camera in hand, catching it all on video.
And there I stood, stunned, surrounded by laughter.
After stumbling over my words and trying to process it all, Okay, hold on…
I set my purse down and looked at them.
You’re really here?
Yes! We wanted to surprise you!
And more hugs.
Surprised, yeah! I mean, they had valid reasons for not coming home that week. And I believed them. But there they were!
But I didn’t clean the house…
(Why do I say the dumbest things in the tenderest moments?)
Mom – we don’t care! We came to see you. Not the house.
On the kitchen table sat a scattered smorgasbord of crackers and cheese, tortillas and refried beans and salsa and chips and paper plates.
Sorry about the mess, but we just got here less than an hour ago, and we were starving. We couldn’t find much food, though…
Of course, there’s not much food. I wasn’t expecting company this week.
Thankfully the pantry wasn’t empty, and they were able to find something edible – and filling. And I was glad I had paper plates. Who wants to wash dishes on a night like that?
Even happier to have our family together again, even if only a few days, but especially for the holidays.
Looking back on the memories, somehow I never see crumbs.