Wednesday, June 20, 2012

oh i feel so very happy in my heart

when my kids were little, we used to ride to preschool to the tunes of Sharon, Lois and Bram. we'd turn up the volume and sing along to skinnamarinkydinkydoo, shouting the lyrics at the windows. as soon as the kids were out of the car, i would switch to beach music or top 40, craving a few short hours of semi-adulthood as i ran errands around town.

one morning after drop-off as i drove down a leafy street in Winston-Salem, i realized that instead of hitting the radio button, i kept hitting 'repeat,' so i could keep singing along, alone in the car. never once thought of the radio. the song — and i remember it so clearly — was "there's a little wheel a turning in my heart.... ending with a verse that begins "oh i feel so very happy in my heart, oh i feel so very happy in my heart...."

and i kept singing, even after i'd gotten out of the car to go to the store and come home to make the beds, do the laundry. the words had become a little worm in my head and heart... oh i feel so very happy in my heart. because i did. feel that.

i doesn't matter why, really. i just was. with my happy children on that bright day in that town where all the streets i traveled seemed so beautiful. at the time, there were parts of my life that weren't so happy, but in those few hours, i was not thinking about any of that. i was just feeling very happy in my heart. really.

on sunday morning of this week, i woke well before light and lay there, thinking about that song. that's what i was feeling again, that fullness, the heart so big it feels as if it might just burst open into something like butterflies or a brisk wind or a crashing ocean ...whatever it is that makes your heart feel just like that. a dirt road. a lightning bug. the lap of a grandparent on the back porch. a game of chase. whatever. i felt it. and i had not seen a single ocean sunrise (as is usually my beach week habit), or had the chance to sit alone just watching the surf (also my habit.) but the happy heart was there. in the middle of this very early morning on my last day of our family reunion at the beach.

this, i will tell you, was a surprise. i'd spent the last 9 days with my birth family and their many extensions, and i confess now that on day 1 i imagined that by the time day 9 got here i would feel nothing but relief. family gatherings for me in years past have been somewhat anxiety filled. as the old stories crop up of how much i cried as a child... teen... adult... or how i never stayed at camp always made me feel a bit of an outcast in my put-together family. in the days before we gathered, i found myself with teeth clenched, wondering just when the jokes would rise at my expense and how often i would spend with my head sunk in the pillow crying at the end of the night. (what do they say about self-fulfilling prophecy?)

maybe it was a sign to me when we checked into our rental that there were only three pillows in the whole place, (for 8+ people)— and i had forgotten mine. this time there would be no crying in the pillow.

and there wasn't. there was only this:

9 nights with my sister in the house. i have spent no more than a night with her in the past few years, and really mostly just hours. i know now that we buy the same tea bags though not the same toilet paper (close), the same pre-filtered coffee when we go on vacation. the time with her reminded me just how funny she really is, and it is a gift.

watching my brother — sans 30 pounds — play with his one-year-old granddaughter in the surf. and for days, he just kept walking around smiling. another gift.

reading my nephew John's guest blog

walking to the beach with my nephew Jay, talking about his new job

hearing all the good news everyone had to share :)

just sitting in the room with my nieces

taking pictures of nephew's Kip's surprise (:!) engagement

getting to know the new girls

shagging with my brother-in-law, nephew and son in the kitchen (stay in the box!)

recreating a 90s photo of all the grands lined up on boogie boards

walking the beach at dusk with my brother and sister-in-law

reading (one good book, though i usually read four on vacation)

having my five-year-old great nephew tell me he didn't want me to leave

watching my parents at a sunset photo session on the sound

reading a letter my friend-since-we-were-four wrote to her father one summer when we spent a week with my grandparents

walking through the grocery store with my mother as she fingered everything

watching as the whole family gathered to view the video my son made for my parents

hearing my brother toast my parents

listening to the grands and their jokes with each other

meeting my cousin for the first time in many, many years

watching my parents open the pile of cards people sent

lying in the sun with my daughter and rehashing all the stories of the week on our way home

hearing the stories of how much every one of us enjoyed being together

some sun, some rain

laughing, laughing, laughing

tiny spots of quiet to take it all in 

my family is not perfect. maybe some who don't know us well think we are. but we have been touched by illness and scandal, by grief and by grace. and we are blessed to have each other and we know it.

my husband no longer has his parents. my sister-in-law has lost both of hers. my brother-in-law's mother is living, but he lost his dad years ago.

maybe that's why all of us cling to my parents. i don't know. but as i lay there on Sunday morning early, i felt for the first time in a long time completely folded into the arms of my family. 

and the hug was tight.


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