We settled into the silence and enjoyed our dinner together as a family, but so much had gone into that moment.
The food had just come ‘fresh’ out of the microwave, since it had sat on the kitchen table too long and cooled down. The few tiny drops of rain that fell before dinner had now stopped, mocking me for all of my panic, and leaving a somewhat damp, somewhat crisp feeling in the air. The spotty rain was visible only on my t-shirt, and so was the humid 90 degree heat that preceded the rain. I came in from outside and joined Erica in the kitchen. It was finally time to eat.
When Erica had pulled into the driveway only moments before, she was greeted by one screaming crying kid and another overly concerned big sister. I stuck my head out of the tent that was still set up in the backyard to explain, “That one is fresh, I don’t know what he’s crying about now, but it’s not related to the phone call earlier.” She replied with a quizzical, “What are you doing in the tent?” the rest of her sentence I’m sure was to be, “…when there is a kid crying in the house?” but to her credit, she didn’t ask the second part, and I may have just assumed it. Still, I felt I had to justify myself by explaining that it was raining just a few minutes ago and I didn’t want all of their sleeping stuff to be wet for tonight. I think I actually used the word “thunderstorming” which was stretching the truth.
Before she came home, she called me to tell me that she would be very late. Even though she was told to pick up the cake at 6:00 the bakery was closed. She was waiting for a manager to come and open it up to give her the cake for the preschool graduation ceremony the next day. I begged her to hurry home.
I lifted up the bottom edge of my t-shirt to wipe the sweat dripping off my brow. I had felt a raindrop earlier and so I jumped up from the picnic blanket and rushed the kids and all the food back into the house, before running out again to grab their gear.
But before that one solitary fateful drop of rain, Pax, Ella and I were all laying on the picnic blanket taking turns applying an ice pack to our foreheads. It started as a way to be silly so that Pax would let me put the ice on his forehead, which worked a couple of times but mostly just helped to distract him from the shock of what just happened.
I had seen it all unfold in slow motion. He stood up to get out of the pool and the first foot he lifted to try to put over the pool’s edge caught the very tip of his toes at the top of the pool, sending his hands high in the air and toppling him face first onto the driveway. I rushed over and rinsed him off to see what the damage was. By his crying I thought we would have to make a trip to the emergency room. Once I could see the small scrape where the blood was coming from, amidst the black and blue mark on his forehead, I knew we could handle it at home. I sat him on the blanket and got him a towel from the house and immediately dialed his mommy.
Meanwhile, Ella yelled to me from the swimming pool asking to get out. Erica called my phone again but I had to let it go to voicemail. The ribs were still on the grill cooking, the corn cobs in the house were still boiling and then Ella called again to me with her final plea of, “I have to go potty” which at first, caught me off guard. My initial reaction was that she was in a pool, and I gave it a low priority, but after more of her persistence, I left Pax with instructions to hold the ice pack to his head and took Ella in the house to help her get out of her swimsuit and make it in time.
Erica had just called a few minutes before with a status report telling me that she would be a few minutes late because it seems the store was having problems with their photo printing station.
I can still see me now, the trimmed meat searing on the grill, the smell of smoke and barbecue filling the air. I said hello to an old friend and simultaneously handled disputes from the pool with a wave of my hand. Erica left with the promise that she would be back soon. The sun was shining and the clouds were a brilliant white against a bright blue. It was a beautiful day. At this point, all I heard was some thunder in the distance. I was clueless as to everything that was about to transpire around me. I actually thought we would make it out unscathed and that Erica would arrive home just in time to sit down and enjoy a nice Memorial Day picnic with the family.
Now, as we sat inside around the kitchen table and looked out the window at the grey skies, the comfortable silence was a welcomed reminder of all the fun we had starting even the night before and how tired we all must be. And that it was still a beautiful day together.