My children are here. In my house. Four adult children, their four significant others and our five grandchildren, ages 5 months to five years. They’ve been here nearly a week celebrating our own Christmas Holiday. That makes 10 adults, counting my husband and me and five young children, living in the same house for a week. Over the last six days, I have felt joy, pride, anxiety and exhaustion, but most of all, I have felt gratitude.
I experienced overwhelming joy the very first morning when the babies all woke early, greeting each other with chubby-armed hugs and slobbery kisses. Joy, when our kids and their spouses, watched the little ones embrace and intervened when the hugs became choke-holds and the kisses involved teeth. Joyous was the celebration of unwrapping gifts, of cannonballs in the pool, of watching dolphins play in the canal as our family observed from the dock.
Pride is an emotion I carry deep into the marrow of my bones. I see our four kids and the outstanding individuals they have chosen as mates, and I wonder how we could be so lucky. Eight young adults who work, play, love and respect, and there is no greater pride than seeing our children as parents themselves, seeing them reflect some of the parenting skills they learned from us, improving on many techniques I struggled with; and admitting to the struggles and inadequacies they sometimes feel themselves. And the deepest pride of all, I attribute to the fact that we could all live under this same roof for a week without harsh words or squabbling. Okay, there was occasional squabbling. Fortunately, it involved those aged 2-5, and it was easily diffused.
Anxiety crept in. Deep breathing was sometimes required. Mostly on my part. As our house guests toddled and sauntered into the kitchen each morning, I began the ritual of breakfast. No fancy cooking here, but pressure to perform and please. Mashed bananas for babies. Pancakes for toddlers. Coffee by the gallon jug for the adults. Pots, pans, dishes, repeat.
Somehow, the time that passed between breakfast, lunch and dinner seemed barely long enough for the dishwasher to be loaded and unloaded. The plates and cups spent little time in the cupboard. We could have run a pipeline to the grocery store with a constant flow of milk, eggs and fruit. Meals ran into one another. The kitchen did not rest.
Exhaustion fell like a heavy boot and not just at the end of the day. For babies who weren’t yet comfortable in their new surroundings and for the parents who attended their needs in the middle of the night, sleep deprivation led to red-rimmed eyes and occasional cranky dispositions. This is not to say that the fogginess and grogginess experienced by the adults could all be blamed on lack of sleep. Some may have been self-induced and involved adult beverages, but of all the emotion that bubbled through my heart and my head this last week, the greatest of all is gratitude.
If you ever want to feel fortunate about where you live, you only need to see this beautiful Island through the eyes of a northern guest. Our family all flew in from various parts of the Midwest — places that had just seen sub-zero temperatures and ground blizzards. They arrived with chapped skin and cracked lips. They hadn’t felt the warmth of the sun in weeks. They hadn’t smelled cut grass or wet leaves in months. Within 24 hours of landing, their skin had rehydrated. The babies’ rosy cheeks healed and softened, making them irresistible to kisses. The layers of clothes peeled away to swimsuits and diaper attire.
With gratitude I observed my family. The laughter and the baby tears. The consumption of not just food and beverage, but the absorption of the nutrients of life that only loved ones can provide. One night, as is our tradition, was “kids cook” night. I went to the beach to teach a yoga class and returned to a candle-lit table and the smell of seafood and garlic. They thought of everything, and we were nourished by equal parts food, love and appreciation.
My memories of this past week are many. Laughter that filled the house long after I went to bed for the night. Thunderous applause for successful potty-training events. Pool-side conversation. Walks in the neighborhood (two strollers, one wagon, four women and a dog). A warm day at the beach. Baby toes in the sand. Spa day. Hot tub nights. Smelly diapers. Kisses laced with chocolate chips. Hugs, hugs, hugs.
Thankfulness, gratitude and humble pride rise to the surface for where I live, who I live with and who I love. It is my overwhelming gratitude that will keep me afloat after the last family has packed their bags and begun their journey back home. After the bedding is all washed, the refrigerator is restocked, the dishwasher has rested and the washing machine stops spinning, I will sit back with gratitude for the week we had together. I will find matchbox cars and Legos under the sofa cushions and behind the TV. Odd socks, in all sizes, will appear in the garage and the toy box, and Cheerios will emerge from the carpet of my car.
But, the patterns of fingerprints that grace my glass doors will remain for some time. Each time, I see them I will feel gratitude for the people, big and small, who lived here for this week and touched me with love.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.