The first time Anna and I met I didn’t have children yet. I was six months pregnant with Melisandra. I waddled about the wedding in Birkenstocks, black pants, and a dressy red shirt. I avoided the dance floor. I endured making conversation with people, like my husband, who had drank one too many Jack Cokes. When I could, I found a ride back to the hotel, put my swollen ankles up, and felt relieved to be alone on the queen-sized bed.
I didn’t know, yet, how relentless it is to be a parent. I didn’t know how it each daughter would stretch me and stress me and surprise me. I didn’t know I could simultaneously admire my children and resist running away from them.
Anna’s daughter married my cousin-in-law. Meeting Anna had been the highlight of my trip to Kansas for the wedding. I still don’t know a lot about her, except that she speaks six languages and that she immigrated with her husband, Peter, to the United States over thirty years ago. She’s lived on both coasts and is now settled near Chicago. She still speaks with her Armenian accent–that and her motherly demeanor make her sound wise and kind. I liked her immediately. I felt at ease with her.
At the wedding, which was now ten years ago, we spoke of pomegranates. I told her I had just tried my first pomegranate, one of her favorite fruits. I told her how I didn’t know much about cutting and preparing pomegranates, so when I tried to juice one in my juicer, I sent seeds all over the kitchen counter and cupboards. Pomegranates are one of the main fruits in Armenian culture. Cutting and preparing them is an intuitive process for her. I didn’t care when she laughed at my lack of experience in these matters. It would be like me talking to someone who thought the proper way to eat a banana was peel and all. Her voice assured me I’d know what what to do next time I brought a pomegranate home.
Anna and Peter returned this June to the boondocks to visit my cousin-in-law’s parents, and thus the whole extended family was invited over to their home for grilled food and conversation. I went there to visit with my aunts and uncles and cousins—this family I married into and now consider my own. I went there to learn from Anna and Peter what they’ve been doing for the last decade.
I moved about the party like any other party. I ate my burger and salad. I asked those sitting near me about their week. I checked on my kids who were busy with the other kids and all the toys. And before I knew it, it was time to get home. Another party attended and done.
Anna came to the foyer to give me a hug. Anna hugged me and said in her wise and kind voice, “It was good seeing you again. May you have a wonderful summer. And may you enjoy your children.”
Enjoy my children. Her words resonated in my head. I left, feeling as if her words had been sent to me from a deliberate, intentional source. They sounded like a blessing, something a pastor says before concluding the church service, or something we’ve all seen on a gift store plaque. “May the road rise up to meet you. May you have the wind at your back …”
I was surprised by how I much needed to hear those words. I needed to be reminded that these little people living with me are more than Intense Responsibilities. They think. They joke. They imagine. They dream. They observe. If you believe in angels or guides or gods or even synchronicity itself, perhaps you know what I mean. Sometimes the people we meet are for a grander purpose than sharing burgers and casual how-do-you-dos.
And thus, I’ve been taking heed.
The next morning, I woke to my toddler Reece at my bedside, smiling. I was not ready to get up, not ready to be lucid. Reece pointed at the stubble on my armpit and started my day with this candid observation: “Ooo, you have hair like Daddy.” I laughed. She laughed, too. And it felt good to laugh together—to exhale and revel in the present.