When school first started when we first arrived here nearly two years ago, I was the new kid on the block. I will always remember what it felt like to stand around on the playground and wait outside the kindergarten door - knowing no one.
That feeling takes you back to junior high pretty quickly. The inner conversation in my head sounded something like this. "Will someone talk to me? Will they like me? Will I make friends? I like the looks of her. She looks like someone who would fit with me. I'm afraid of her. I need to avoid them. I hope they come over here. I hope I don't sound silly...."
I needed somewhere to leave myself for parts of those first few days. Sasha always wanted to stay and play outside when Kindergarten ended at 11:30. Some days I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. I needed to find a hiding place. On days like those, I'd wander over to the swing set to hide where the kids were. Though I didn't know it then, I found a treasure where I was only looking for a place to escape.
Sitting on those swings were two chocolate-brown skinned beauties, with the warmest eyes, sitting side by side. He was in Sasha's class and she was his little sister. They captured me from the first time I saw them. There they were, feet dangling, just waiting for a push. Before long, I was pushing them on the swings, sending them to places in outer space. They would giggle and ask to go to Mars and I'd lose myself in the simplicity of the moment, forgetting the anxious feelings I was trying to get away from.
I loved to push those two on the swings. It became "our thing" and soon A and S were my buddies. They asked for pushes to far-off places, and I was only too happy to oblige.
Within a day or two, I was standing near the door waiting for Sasha to be dismissed when A and S's mom struck up a conversation with me. She shared a little of her story - she had only been the mom to the chocolate brown beauties for a few months. They were siblings who she and her husband had adopted. She was a natural - that much was clear - but she was also finding her way in the world of parenting by jumping in feet first and waist deep.
Pushing those two on the swings and talking to their new mom allowed me the immeasurable gift of being the witness to watching a family unfold and take shape where one didn't exist before.
Before long their mom, Heather, was my friend. When I met her husband, Don, I snagged him as my friend after the first 10 seconds. (Now, like it or not, I'm not letting go!) As the year went on, I watched the beautiful evolution. Where bodies were once a little stiff or reluctant, I watched them melt into each other. I got to observe the rhythms and melodies of voices and calls from across the playground find their pitch and timing. I heard the tales of the growing pains and victories and knew was there when word came that it all became official and they were a family that couldn't be separated.
But even before it was official, I knew. They were a perfect fit, you see. The way A fell in love with hockey like his mom and talked of little else, knowing he'd won her heart. The way little S giggled and teased her dad, waiting for the sparkle in his eye and the squeeze of his hand. It was amazing - to see two adults and two children who weren't connected to each other fall into the cracks and spaces of each other's lives and take up residence where only they would fit.
A few weeks ago they were here for dinner with another family. And there were a few moments that took my breath away. It's the way A and S say "mom and dad" and they answer them both like they've been only theirs forever. It's the way Heather gently held A on her lap and wiped up his bloody nose. He trusts her implicitly. She's his mom and there is no one else for him but her. It's when I catch them responding to Heather and Don's instructions or requests and they do it to please them because they are confident in their love.
When I think of the richest parts of these past two years, the unfolding of this family sits close to the very top. And I wouldn't trade those pushes on the swings that let me in for a front row seat, for anything.