We have “conversation starter” cards on our dinner table and every night we draw a card or two and go around the table and answer the question presented. Topics range from “if you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?” and “how do you think your life is different from your grandparents?”
Earlier this week, the question was “if your house was on fire and you could save three things, what would they be?” We started with the premise that all of the people are safe. Both kids wanted to save the Nintendo, but I pointed out that it was replaceable, so then the question became: What is not replaceable? What is really special to you? Theo wanted to bring his stuffed dog and Quentin, of course, would bring Mr. Giraffe.
I said that I would bring our wedding photo album, because we were married in the days before professional photography was digital and, while some of our guests took digital pictures, the album has all of the best memories. Assuming I have superhuman strength, I would bring my foot locker. It sits at the end of our bed and is full of things from my childhood: photos, journals, small toys – many things I loved. And the third thing I would bring are the frames of Nelle and Iris’s footprints. I explained that since I do not have any pictures, that those footprints are all I have and I can’t replace them.
“Wouldn’t you want to save my special box?” Theo wanted to know. Each of the kids has a special box that I add to all the time. I told him that, if there were a fire, that he could always make new memories and we could start a new special box for him. But for Nelle and Iris – I won’t have any new memories. That’s why I needed their footprints.
A few days later, the question was “What is the thing that you like the best about each of your siblings?” When we reached Theo, he said that Autumn is cute and Quentin is funny. Then he said “And the best thing about Nelle and Iris is that they gave us hope.”
I was stunned. That he included his sisters without any type of prompting. And also the way he said it. I always have associated Autumn with hope: we hoped, for her. But to recognize Nelle and Iris as the root of that need to hope was truly insightful of him. Ger and I both acknowledged to Theo that yes, they gave us hope.
Later that evening, I was thinking too hard about what he said. It was one of those moments where I just missed them. Missed that they aren’t here, that we never met them. The kids were slowly getting themselves into their pajamas, not paying any attention to me as I sat on the bed. I squeezed my eyes tight, feeling the sting of tears behind my eyelids. Wanting them not to notice me in that moment, because it felt like a moment I just needed to take for myself. Quentin asked me a question and I opened my eyes, wondering if he would notice the smallest amount of tears lingering in the corners of my eyes.