On the night before Thanksgiving Day, each of our children became ill with the stomach flu. My husband and I ran from bed to bed. We had the washing machine gong all night. Just when it appeared we had seen the worst of it and the children were starting to go back to sleep, it hit my husband and me. By morning the whole family looked like death warmed over.
That Thanksgiving the children were too weak to play, wiggle or even fight. There were no visitors. Nobody wanted to catch what we had. There was no feast. No one could keep anything down even if anyone could get up and fix it.
It was a quiet day. There was no TV blaring football in the corner of the room. The rocking chair creaked slowly next to the piano in the living room while my husband took turns rocking the children to sleep. As I sat on our worn sofa stroking a child's small head in my lap and cradling another in the bend of my arm, I did a lot of thinking - thinking about what I was grateful for.
As I rubbed my child's sweaty forehead and looked into his eyes, it occurred to me that everything that really mattered was who I loved. The whole richness of my life was contained in the embryonic relationships that were growing, developing and changing within the walls of my own home.
I realized that most of the problems our family faced came from being over committed. Our relationships suffered when we couldn't bring ourselves to say no to other people, to properly un-order our lives so there was enough time to take walks together, play board games on the kitchen table, tell jokes while we scrubbed the pots and pans, or watch the stars appear in the night sky. It really isn't quality time but lots of unscheduled quantity time that matters. We spend the most time with what we truly love.
We didn't dress or eat or even talk much that day. My thoughts were slow and unhurried. I looked at my husband and my children as if I were seeing them for the first time. I noticed the unusual upward turn of my husbands' brow, the circular mixture of blue, green and brown in my daughter's eyes, the soft satin feel of my baby's cheeks.
My family was all that seemed real that day. The rest of the world seemed out of focus. Everything that really mattered was rocking quietly next to the piano or snuggled deep in my arms. That evening, we all sat around the kitchen table and took turns telling each other what we were grateful for.
Now my family has grown to include the spouses of my children and lots of grandchildren - yet the feeling is the same. My family is my world. They mean everything to me.