After a month of waiting, it finally rained yesterday. It kept coming down throughout dinner and through the time when we would normally go on our post-dining walk. Our walks give the dependents–both the dog and the toddler–a chance to stretch their legs and bark at dogs. They also provide Greg and I some time to talk about whatever is on our minds without the distraction of technology.
Instead, we danced. We boogied to Chuck Berry and laughed at each other while the dog ran back and forth. Then we all ended up laying on the floor and laughing while Noah climbed over Greg to kiss Louise and Zeb gave us all slobbery love.
There was nothing extraordinary about the evening, only our ordinary silliness that fills our everyday love. But for a moment in the midst of our fun, I realized how lucky we are to have each other. I took a mental snapshot of my family in all our goofy glory. I cannot even imagine how much more joyful it will be when our little girl is added to the mix.
Lately, I find myself thinking about the moment when everything changes. There are those gradual buildups that you can look back on and see a slow evolution to a new reality. Things like your kid learning to talk. Odd noises lead to persistent babble become repeated monosyllables turn to words.
But those aren’t the times I have been dwelling on. I keep coming back to the few instances in my life when there was a distinct “before” and “after.” The times when my life after that moment were a complete departure from what came previously.
There was the time I went to a college orientation meeting and sat down next to a stranger. Prior to that day I was a single young adult. After I sat down, the new guy and I talked and spent the rest of the day starting a friendship. A week later we started dating; five years passed and we got married. There is a sharp distinction for me of my life before Greg and my life after I met him. In that one moment, in that decision to be uncharacteristically bold, my directionality altered.
Then there was the day my son was born. There is a clear instant that rises up through the haze of labor and delivery. There was a moment when I got to hold my baby and wish him a happy birthday. Before that day we were two people with a dog who could make and change plans at the drop of a hat. After he took a breath, we became a family of three, and my life became fuller in a way I did not expect.
A few weeks ago I took a test that changed things again. Before we were three, now, we’re a family of four.
Italian Fest turned into a mud pit by Friday afternoon. Really smelly mud. Because of the downpour, we didn’t serve nearly as many people as we normally do. About 175. So we have lots of gravy left over. It was fun and a bit weird to be there with my baby. The kid rocked some noise canceling headphones for a chunk of the weekend, which was adorable. DJ NJ. Greg and I also got to have a date on Friday night to watch Star & Micey and Paul Thorn–both bands I really enjoy. Stream of consciousness, brought to you by my sleepy, slightly mud self.
This week is Italian Fest week. In other words, one of my favorite, exhausting, spectacular family traditions. For as long as I can remember, my family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, siblings–comes together as Rome(r), Italy (my mom’s maiden name is Romer). We set up shop in a couple of tents at Marquette Park and spend days spending time together and with friends who pass through.
On Friday, we will serve spaghetti to over 150 friends. We will have a few drinks and listen to music. For us, Friday is an accomplishment and a way to share our good fortune with the people we care about. Greg and I cooked up our quadruple batch of my grandmother’s recipe yesterday afternoon.
Of course, Saturday is the cooking competition. We take turns cooking for that so that no one needs to worry about it every year. We haven’t made the finals in over a decade, but that’s a bit beside the point. It would be fun to win, but it’s also fun to spend time together.
My relationship with the festival has changed over time, but for my entire life, the festival is what my family does the last weekend in May. We spend time together, cook, eat and laugh.
I love it.
And we aren’t even Italian.
Our neighborhood is great, and there is an ineffable quality that comes out in that thirty minutes between when night is falling and day is done. The slowly failing light makes the azaleas and dogwoods seem brighter. The nice weather makes everyone more amenable to chatting and making introductions. Right before everyone returns to their homes to go about their separate lives, the streets turn on for those few minutes in a manner completely unlike any other time of day. It is the perfect time to walk with my family.