It has been a long time coming.
Far too long. But finally, we got to see our dear Francine this weekend.
"It's Christmas again!" sang Tessa. The children ran from the door, even little Jonah, calling "Francine's here! Francine's here!!!"
Francine stooped and hugged each child, looking into their eyes and really seeing them. She filled our arms with food and fruit and presents to trundle into the house. Francine showed us all of the fun goodies she brought to share, and then settled in on the rug at eye level with dancing little ones all around her. They brought her drawings, told her stories, and each one in turn tried to catch up for months of missed visiting. Francine met the new hamster that Santa brought, she admired the Rubik's cube that Ethan solved, and she crooned over every story and adventure.
The gifts exchanged were adored. Francine received lovingly handmade hot pads from Jonah and the girls, a handmade book from Ethan and a lovely handmade bracelet from Adam. I gave her some of my own handiwork, including the best pot I was able to throw this year. Guy's gift came as a custom order of fudge and the most gorgeous dinner ever. Francine showered us all with precious tokens of her love; each one so carefully chosen.. little dolls, lizard "stuff", puzzles and pottery, each one matched perfectly to it's recipient. It was Christmas, alright, all over again. It was laughter and gifting from the heart, sharing of delicious food and precious conversation. It was like a page out of an old Dickens story.
Something that I love about being a mortal, with all of it's foibles and struggles, is that
I can enjoy, again and again,
the same simple principles of truth
when they come to teach me
for the second and tenth and fiftieth time.
I could never tire of being reminded of what it means to be in a family, and what it means to have embraced a friendship so close to my heart that the distinction between genetic connection and congenial affection blurs into an amalgam of utter comfort, trust and tender devotion. What a blessing we have in this life to have deep and true friendships.
The other thing I cherish is that through Francine's visits I see us, our family, in a sort of looking glass. I see reflected back in her eyes the love and joy my children have, and I appreciate them more. I hear her ask them about their lives, and
each word that tumbles from their lips is precious to her.
She shows it, and they feel it. In those moments I am reminded of how much I may miss if I don't pay attention to their words. The thousands of times a day that I hear "Mommy look!" "Mommy, guess what?" or "Know what I did?" could be special if I would let them. When I see how important my children's words are to Francine, it is a gentle prompt to me not to ignore the endless flow of chatter that spills from gaped-tooth mouths attached to bouncing little beings.
I realize I have evolved one of those off switches, like the ones men use when women talk about feelings, or the ones women use when men talk about sports. I slip into the "Pretend to Listen" mode. "Uh-huh...Oh, cool." I say blandly without eye contact as I wash or fold or who-knows-what. Those little words have become the interruption to my work, not the other way around.
Today I will listen.
I will listen to the agonizing plot to Invader Zim.
I will listen to the gruesome description of a snake eating a mouse sideways.
I will listen to the millionth telling of that dang knock-knock joke, and to the sorrow of a six year old still grieving her lost hamster.
Today I will look in their eyes.
I will get down on the floor if that's where I need to be to see them
... really see them. I will focus on their eyes and let them have me entirely to themselves for those moments.
Today I will let my children feel as important as they actually are.
(and if I'm paying attention, I'll manage to do it again tomorrow!)
Jonah helped Francine open her present from him.
He was as surprised as she was, even though he made it!
Love the looks.
Million Dollar Moment
The doll house has new residents
Guy's gift to us all...
Cashew Encrusted Chicken stuffed with feta, green onions, bacon, spinach, and Guy's special magic. Roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach salad with cranberry and cinnamon goat cheese. Oh, and that gravy there? Yeah, I want to swim in it or name our baby after it or something.