a family observed

June 26, 2005

The day was ridiculously busy. Sweaty tourists, grumpy with the heat and with the wait, spilled out from the hallway into the foyer. Servers performed the nearly orchestrated dance of hurriedly delivering steaming trays while miraculously avoiding seemingly inevitable collisions. And I spent the entire day darting from one “urgent” task to the next, unaware of the passing of time and mostly unaware of what I was doing at any given moment.
But they caught my eye and, for a moment, I was transfixed. Time stood still in a blessed moment of catch-in-the-throat emotion. An unnoticed bystander, I stood witness to a beautiful evidence of humanity. It was an East-Asian woman and her elderly mother, paying no heed to the bustling activity surrounding them or the other patrons pressing in against them. They stood engaged in what seemed to be just casual passing-time conversation: “I wonder if Dad found a parking space yet” . . . “Did you get the hotel keys back from Michael?” . . . . “Do you think I should wear comfortable shoes for the rehearsal dinner?” . . .
But what was striking was the unthinking way that they touched each other as they spoke. This was obviously a family for which physical affection was commonplace and daily. The mother patted her daughter’s hand, and straightened her rings for her. The daughter pushed a strand of hair out of her mother’s eyes, and let her hand linger for a brief moment on her cheek, just long enough to finish the phrase. Then, thought completed, she lifted her hand and gestured in the air with it as she pointed out an interesting advertisement hanging on the wall.
In that moment, my heart ached for my mother, and for all things familial. I thought, how beautiful, how lovely, how blessed to have daily instances of nothingness with which to care for our own–to be human together.

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