I hear their voices as I clean the supper dishes off of the table. They are breathless, excited voices squealing with delight in the backyard. I glance out the window over the sink. Three little pairs of legs run through the grass after Daddy, who is presently in possession of the ball. The littlest one, Boo, crawls as fast as she can after them, sits back for a quick moment to clap her hands and squeal, and then sets her mind to catching up with them on all fours. Miss is 2, and is staying overnight. She runs back and forth, alternately chasing the ball and then, with a laser-quick change of attention, she switches to picking very specific blades of grass. B-Boy and Little Man are the two serious contenders and they chase Daddy with every ounce of energy.
Little Man sees my face in the window and yells “Mommy! Come play football!”. It doesn’t matter that they’re playing with a black and white soccer ball, or that there are no end zones and therefore, no possible way to score. The fact hasn’t appeared to even occur to them. My hands are covered in citrus-scented bubbles as I take in the scene. Daddy looks up to the window, and in that split-second, his boys tackle him, throwing themselves at him with no regard for personal safety. Miss laughs out loud and joins the pile and Boo claps again, and rushes to join in too. Grass stains her knees and her fingernails are black.
I pause in that moment to take a mental snapshot of the scene. This is a family in it’s purest sense, enjoying one another with no thought to the worries of the rest of the world. They a screaming and laughing as they tickle one another and grapple for supremacy as the one on top. The pile of dishes is gone, the table is cleared. The floor needs to be swept, but it can wait. The snapshot is incomplete. It is missing me. And so I run out the back door barefoot and grab the ball from the unsuspecting, writhing pile of bodies. “Boys against girls!”, I announce, and the game is back on.
I don’t know who won that night. We tried to keep score, but gave up. But I do know that leave the still messy kitchen to play with my family is a memory that will stay with me, and with them. They may not remember the details, but I hope and pray that they will hold on to a sense of belonging and of family, and that when they are perpetuating the cycle of the human race, they will remember how to impart that sense of security to their own children.
Because there will always be more dishes to wash, more floors to be swept, more bills to be paid, and more hours to work.