Together, as a family, we’d eaten the better part of a 15-pound turkey and all the trimmings. For the second year running, the giblet gravy I made turned out very well—a matter of no small amount of pride for me. Later that night, we’d play board games together and scarf down the cinnamon-laced pumpkin pie my wife, Alison, had baked. But for me, the best part of the day was having Ellie in my lap.
I thought of this again last night when reading Lisa Jewell’s The Third Wife. The novel’s about a man who’s grieving the sudden death of his third wife while re-acquainting himself with the children he had with his first two wives. As one might imagine, the novel’s filled with regret. Repeatedly, he finds himself wondering how he’s become so estranged from his children. Though he’s tried to remain connected to them, he’s missed many of the milestones in their young lives.
In particular, I found myself thinking about this passage:
“He thought of Beau’s cheek under his hand half an hour ago and wondered when he’d last stroked Luke’s face. He was aware that there would always be the last time for these intimate nuances of his relationships with his children and that often that time would pass unnoticed. When, for example, had Cat sat on his lap for the last time? When had he last kissed Otis on the lips, picked Pearl up in his arms, called Luke one of his childhood nicknames, held Beau up on his shoulders? He had no idea. He thought of crying at the leavers’ ceremony of his oldest children, knowing that he would never again see them in their primary [school] uniforms, that they would never again be little. But there were no ceremonies for these other ‘lasts,’ no realization or acknowledgement that something precious was about to end.”
Last week, when the movie was over, Ellie hopped off my lap, zipped up her coat and walked up the aisle and out of the theater. Driving home, I asked her why she went onto my lap during the film.
Ellie shrugged. “The theater was cold.”
So it was just a matter of her personal comfort, of warmth, that drove her into my lap. I hope this wasn’t the last time she’d do so. And I hope it won’t take a cold movie theater or fantastical beasts for her to jump into my lap again.
Addendum: Last Sunday, our middle child, Sebastian (15) got baptized. I hadn’t been prepared for how good this would make me feel. He’s turned into a really fine young man—tall, intelligent, sensitive, caring, and good looking. It was a good feeling, coming to this realization.
If you care to watch his baptism, it starts at about the 9:20 mark of this video.
Addendum #2: A good friend from my MFA years, Jeremy Griffin, just published a great story in Green Briar Review. It's called "Oceanography," and you should really give it a read!