My wife glanced at me, our eyes meeting the way long term friends do. Something odd was happening. I mean, everything was normal but people were freaking out. We were witness to something that forever changed our past.
Our history led us to this very moment that probably slipped unnoticed past the whole family but it lodged forever in our minds.
We started our family a little younger than our siblings and cousins and of course not only did we feel judged and inadequate, both were true. Everyone had an opinion about how we ought go about raising our kids and our lives in general and we really wanted to be awesome, we just weren’t.
Enter the family: My Grandparents lived a walking mile away, a few blocks to the railroad tracks, past the elementary school, down the walking path that circumvented the VA, through the shrubbery and into the trailer park. We walked there most weekends with the chicklins.
While there we did our best to live the family standard of being perfect and beyond criticism. That wasn’t so hard actually as we could fake it as well as anyone. The problem is that the kids had no idea nor did they care. They were just themselves.
Actually we were lucky with our kids cause they were usually so tired from all the walking us old folks liked to do that they were seldom a hassle but at the Grandparents house they got lots of attention for being a pain in the ass. The whole family seemed to think it was cute when the kids acted up so it created quite an ordeal for my wife and me.
Two people seemed to work up the kids the most: my aunt and her daughter, my cousin who is 3 years older but acted much younger and still living with her mom. They would laugh and laugh. If I or my wife would show frustration it would add to the merriment. We took it in stride and the years rolled by.
Finally my cousin’s fiance finished medical school so they got married. Alas, he couldn’t figure out how to get her pregnant. I thought about offering some much needed advice but it was my cousin so I kept sort of quiet. He is kind of a soft sweet guy so I wasn’t sure if it was him or if medical school offered too much theory and not enough practical application. Either way, I did it at least 3 time and I wasn’t even trying. Some things just come natural I recon.
It was finally decided that the cousins would adopt. Papers were signed for a baby to be born in 6 months and BANG! she got pregnant. Auntie went to help out the new parents so word floated about from time to time concerning the little ones.
So several summers later the whole clan met at my parents house for a get- together and the cousins were gonna be there. What a great time! Wait a minute…. I was watching the happenings and something was off. I had NEVER seen my cousin act like THAT before. Running around acting all frantic and her soft husband was in daddy mode being WAY too serious.
There’s my wife. Our eyes met several times and I saw a light curl at the corners… Those lips are gonna get kissed later.
The little ones were so happy and fun. Perfectly normal.
My wife and I started helping corral the kids, trying to ease the stress of their parents. (we never did get off on seeing young parents struggle) The family gradually moved out to the summertime patio out back and I scooted through the kitchen where my cousin was cutting veggies.
“Ken, will you help me with these?” she pleaded. She had been pretty sharp with me several times earlier while joking and making small talk. “Sure hon. Whatcha need?” She slid aside and I slipped into place at the cutting board, excited that we could have a few minutes to catch up on old times.
She drifted away and went out to the patio and sat down to visit.
Hmm.. I thought she wanted help. She could have just asked me to do it for her. What ever.
This ain’t the first time I’ve had to be an adult so I set to the task and in 15 minutes the work was finished. As I was cutting, an old Merle Haggard song started floating through my mind. Something about concentrated work allows a bit of thinking to happen and I was thinking about the strange change in all the happy-go-lucky twenty – somethings to frantic, at-wits-end parents.
Everything was so funny just a decade ago but NOTHING was funny now.
Merle was singing: We used to laugh a lot… But things aren’t funny anymore.