They sat around the table in my kitchen nook gobbling up the roasted potatoes, farmers market broccoli, salad, watermelon and hot dogs, laughing all the while.
Then the boys took off for the basement and the Wii, while the girls giggled on the couch, half-watching an ’80s movie and half-texting random friends. I wanted to swim but knew it would be next to impossible to make my 8:30 adult master swim, so I suggested we all go to the pool, and they splash and romp and play while I swam laps. Agreed. Done. We went.
In my car, the oldest one sat in the front, two tweens in the middle row and the two little guys in the third row. You could barely see them over the headrest. But everybody fit and everyone had a companion and I drove smoothly over the road to the pool, like a mother of five, which I’m not but always wished to be.
If these kids were all mine, I would have been breathless. 13, 12, almost 11, 9 and 8. Really? Not entirely possible. My niece and nephew over for the evening with my three biological kids made it a raucous, full family, and I pondered how it might have been had I stayed married to the first guy and introduced five children, instead of three, to the world.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda. No way would that have been wise. In a healthy marriage, maybe. In a struggling one, forget about it.
But last night I realized my dream, if only for a few hours.
After swimming, everyone dressed and we drove to a favorite ice cream place, where the five of them got silly at a sidewalk table, laughing, loving, lapping up the ice cream. Then we drove up old streets to see their first homes, and as the sun set behind the horizon and night fell in shades of blue and black, we drove west to take them home.
A stop before their house, though: my parents’ house, the place of my childhood romps, and in the gloaming, my parents came out on the lawn and the kids found their renewed energy and ran in circles, still laughing, still loving, so full of energy at being together that I felt this is what we mean when we say leaving a legacy.
My parents just stood there, half of their ten grandchildren in front of them, for no reason, just because, on the lawn in a summer night, playing and loving each other, and loving them. My daughter leaned in for a hug from her Papa. Everyone cuddled everyone else. So much love to go around. Such a lifelong legacy.
You work and you work and you play and you pay. You spend a life building a life, thinking you know the purpose but never really knowing the ultimate outcome.
We are born to die, really, starting on a path of hope and dream and wish and as the years fly by, realizing that sometimes we’re just plugging away at mundane tasks because we have to. If we are lucky enough to live with purpose, then we see our days filled with meaningful minutes and we sigh at the fall of dusk, content in the knowledge that we are doing our small part to make a dent in the world.
On a night like this one, I knew I was on the right path. Purpose, meaning, love. So I didn’t make my master swim. Who cares. I made so much more instead.