"Not so great, actually."
It is my honest answer to my sister-in-law's "How are you?"
She pours me water, finds me tylenol, tells me to relax, just to catch up with my brother.
She predicts the cousins can entertain each other with legos and trains and heads toward the kitchen to get homemade pizza going (sauce and all, our family recipe).
I feel like crap. And the next day's 10 hour trip home weighs heavy on my shoulders. But there isn't anywhere else I want to be. In these early evening hours in a DC row house, though miles from home, though hours from needed rest, I am among my people.
We sit around the table, raise a glass to family and to Trader Joe's $4 buck chuck. Laura dances the up and down, more milk, more pizza (cut into bites or slice?), need a napkin dance. She gives me the night completely off. I want to hug that girl. (Come to think of it, I did. A few times.)
I watch my baby brother (Aaron) be a dad, watch his 20 month old (Sammy) be a pill. I see my brother make the same face our Dad used to make--the one with the authoritative eyebrows--and not even know it.
Aaron takes Sammy to put on PJs, and all the kids follow. Next thing I know Aaron calls us to get the camera. I open the door and there are the four cousins posing like stuffed animals, as lined in a row as we'd ever hope to get them. They pay rapt attention to the bizarre story my brother is telling from behind the crib with pig puppets. They giggle, speak in silly tongues to the puppets. I watch my baby brother be an uncle.
I try to just pause myself at being thankful, to not fast-forward-wish for more time before the time is even over.
The time we spend is short, ordinary, messy. I am achy, tired, spent.
But the time we spend is sweet, extraordinary, connected. And I am at ease, renewed, content.
I drive back through the city, accidentally take the long way past my old office, through Georgetown, across the Key Bridge. Caed prattles from the back seat for the entire stretch of M Street:
I wish Gus was my brother so I could teach him things all the time. Like did you see how I showed him the way to jump from one couch to the other? And he didn't think he could do it, but I told him to be brave and try his best? And then, even though he was littler than me, he DID IT! Because I really, really helped him. I was so su'prised. I mean, it's good that he's my cousin, but I still think if he was my own little brother, it would work out nicer.Yes, I say. I understand. There is something very special about having a little brother. Even when you're all grown up and too big and too tired to jump on couches. There's something very special, indeed.
My Tuesday gift came a bit early, I admit. On a Friday to be exact. But I saved it for today, because honestly? I just love sharing this stuff with the community gathering at Emily's place for Tuesdays Unwrapped.