Let’s do something fun for dinner, Chris says. The weather is warm. Let’s shoot for a place outside. There’s room in the budget, remember? He hasn’t forgotten that I canceled our Valentine’s Day date. His favorite burger place is just up the road, and he’s only dropped the hint three or four times that afternoon. I agree and head for the car. The idea of no prep and no clean-up sounds really, really good. The big kids load up the little ones, explaining the concept of honor roll and how they both nailed it this quarter. Everyone is in a good mood, with almost-springtime electricity rippling through the truck. The music is up and windows are down. Chris reaches over and grabs my hand with a squeeze that says I love you. You’re going to be okay. Look around you and breathe this family in.
We choose to sit inside at the restaurant, where there’s a table big enough for all of us. I hope it’s okay that we’re here with this big crew. We’ll try not to bother anyone, I say to the hostess. She laughs. We love kids, and you are all welcome here! We sit down with the usual shuffle, crayons and seat preferences flying. May we please have Sprite? Do you want to try the fried pickles? Of course, and sure.
We place our orders, working out the who-shares-with-whom details. I’m trying the special tonight – some sort of tuna burger. The fried pickles arrive. I wink at the boys who guzzle their sodas, and I thank the waiter who fills up the little pigs’ water bottles. The baby nurses and nobody in the joint bats an eyelash. The twins wave and smile at every person who walks by. Ames learned to wink this week, so he doesn’t hesitate to try it out on the waitstaff. I smile as Avery shares his personal space so well, serving the girls tastes and gently shoving grubby hands from his plate. Lucas asks to get Hadassah when she’s done eating, and he props her up beside him. She’s like the most perfect-est baby ever, he says. She gets her first taste of lemon tonight, much to everyone’s entertainment.
The food is delicious and the vibe is joyful. We finish the meal with a game of tag around the fountain outside. Avery impresses everyone with his ability to run the perimeter and avoid falling in, even while getting pushed and tickled by the rest of us. We load into the Suburban and turn up the tunes once more, moaning about how full we are. As we near the house, Chris misses the driveway on purpose. I can’t pull in while this song is playing, he says as he claps and sings along to Happy at the top of his lungs.
As we park and pour out of the truck, Chris smiles at me. That did your heart good, right? Yes. I can feel it… the thawing of this winter season, both outside of my home and inside of my heart. The Lord is near to the weary, y’all. So, so near. It’s just that when we’re tired, sometimes we have to open our eyes a little wider.