Playing For Keeps…

They are dancing. Arms and legs, still limber and growing, are flailing. They move unencumbered by any fear of others, in the way only children can. They are giggling; throwing their heads back as their laughter weaves its way above the music. They are lost to this moment. And I am found.

It is all I want. In my large bucket of wants, of wishes, it is what rises to the surface, again and again. My children are home. They are happy and free. They are healthy. And, they are actually enjoying this life together.

It was when I was 16. I opened a square box on Christmas morning, anxiously. Carefully, I unwrapped a detailed crystal bell. It was beautiful, and much too fine to go in my messy room. “It’s for later,” my Grandpa said. “To remember us by. I want you to have beautiful things when I am gone.” “Thank you,” I choked, around the rock in my throat, as I hurried to wrap it back up, to place it back in its thick box. To make it safer again and prolong the inevitable. It had not occurred to me that my Grandpa would die and I would be left here without the safety net of his love. I no longer wanted that bell. What good are fine things without fine people?

So it stayed. Hidden in its box, on a shelf of my closet. Through the next summer when the diagnosis came. Through the months of treatment that followed, and ultimately, failed.

It was years before my heart had built a scab thick enough to see the bell without breaking completely. It is only now that I am a Mommy that I appreciate that kind of foresight. Only now that I understand being loved longer than a lifetime.

My children are dancing. It is not always so. There are arguments and name calling, selfishness, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings almost every day. But there is love. There are hugs and kisses, tickles, generosity, and forgiveness. We are a family. As we forge our paths, we do it together. Our family is the place where all of our puzzling pieces fit. As the Mommy, I am always quick to correct division. To not just say, “Get along”, but to make sure they know how to love.

It is a lot of work, this business of raising five whole people. But it won’t be like this forever. Neither will I. So I’m giving my children this gift that will last longer than me. This buffer between them and alone. Not fine china or crystal, but a family that is also the most faithful of friends. Siblings to waltz through this life with. Because I want them to have beautiful things, even when I’m gone.

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