“A table for four?” the hostess asks me.
More than a decade in the restaurant business and I can not resist the urge to smile and say “Three and a half!” while gesturing to the baby. It’s not particularly funny. It wasn’t the first time I said it and it won’t be the next hundred times. We get a high chair and we head to our table. A table for four.
There are four stockings hanging.
When I fold laundry I make a square in my mind, sorting things in to the invisible quadrants: Mom, Dad, Emily & Lucy.
I set the table and in the past few weeks I have begun to pull out four plates (even if the fourth remains far away from the smallest dining companion in an effort to keep her from pitching it to the floor.)
There are four spots in a booth. Four spaces in an average vehicle. Three spots on the couch plus the chair in the living room make four spots to sit.
Four means a family to me. I was raised in a family of four. Four means parenting is never zone defense by design. Man-to-man is my preferred style and two adults and two kids lends itself nicely to this.
Friday afternoon Lucy fell asleep in the car. I pulled in the driveway with forty minutes or so to spare before Emily was to get off of the bus. I thought I would read, goof off on my phone and let her sleep. I rolled the windows down in my car and grabbed a blanket and my laptop from inside. With Lucy tucked in to the backseat and a cool breeze on my face I started to write about how we have four people in our family and that fact brings me a great sense of calm, a feeling of being complete.
Lucy started to wake and I quickly turned my car on, hoping the vibration of the engine would put her back to sleep. In twenty minutes Emily would be getting off of the bus. The radio was on and the news of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary filled my car.
I was waiting for my child to get off the bus. There were twenty families whose children would not come home from school. I had twenty minutes to wait until I could hold my oldest in my arms. School had let out already, I couldn’t go pick her up. So, I waited. With fat tears rolling down my face I waited.
My heart skips a beat when I see her face every day after school. There is nothing so care-free as a child as they toss their backpack to the ground and run up the driveway. I dropped to my knees and buried my face in her neck, breathing in her scent of sweaty kid and cold winter day and cherry chapstick. “Mom, are you ok?”
“Yep. I am. I am ok.”
“You can keep hugging me, but can I just grab a snack?”
We are four. Four is our little family. To the families that woke up a four on Friday and became three, woke up three and became two, whatever your number is now know that Americans will keep setting a place at their table for your children. We will hang a stocking or make a space on our couch. Your children will not be forgotten.
Really beautiful and thoughtful –
Dammit Kelly, you just made me cry.
I have a problem with that. I tend to do it from time to time.
Lovely post. And you are right about the man-to-man thing. Zone coverage can be tricky.
This is a different perspective from any other post I’ve read on the topic. Will admit, the last paragraph choked me up.
Well-written. But you don’t get my Four Is A Family domain name!! :)
Ha! You’ve been on my mind for days now. :)
Grrr. The battle is joined.. :)
That was nice work. Thank you.
Thank you for reading. Hello and happy holidays to you and yours.
What has always made you so special, both to your four and to the populaton in general, Kelly, is your ability to feel what you feel not only for yourself but for the world at large. Many, dare I say most of us shy away from tragedy because it puts a damper on our own little universe. You pull the rest of the world into yours, share yourself in a way that is exceptional in this intimately disconnected world. I loved the piece today, love you for writing it, hope that one day we’ll live in a world where you won’t have to, know that won’t ever happen. Don’t ever stop writing, Kelly, not just for your fours (both of them) but for the extended family that is part of your world.
Cherry chapstick. Sometimes the littlest things are what we crave, hold on to, and are reminded to love just a little bit more.
Read your post on my phone as I was standing there watching Little Man climb onto the school bus and drive away….this is going to be an excruciating day. How we ever it get back to normal, I just don’t know…
I know. Em had a cough this morning so I said “do you think you need to stay home?” By 8 am I realized I can’t keep her home forever… she’s at school. I am counting minutes.
Love you, Kelly. Beautiful post.
I’ve been so weepy since Friday, incapable of really speaking about what happened in CT and incapable of finishing what I had already started to say… when I realized they were part of the same thought.
For many who grieve
in isolated silence.
For many who share
For many who carry
For all of us,
each, and every one.
Thank you, truly.
So beautiful! And let me just say—zone defense….yeah not so fun sometimes!! :)
I can only imagine!
Beautifully stated – love, caring, thoughtful. Thank you