My chil­dren have molded me

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

We are not a demon­stra­tive fam­ily. But from time to time the boy sur­prises me. He snakes his hand into mine and gen­tly squeezes. “I love you, mom.”

It usu­ally doesn’t last long enough for me to ques­tion whether he has an ul­te­rior mo­tive, though I imag­ine this sud­den burst of af­fec­tion is pay­ment in kind for some hap­pi­ness he cred­its to my do­ing.

This time, af­ter he let go, he dis­ap­peared into the cav­ernous house that was his cousins’, find­ing a few mo­ments of free­dom amid the fam­ily fes­tiv­ity. Free­dom to se­crecy in all man­ner of imag­i­nary boy­hood things.

His sis­ter, who had also si­dled up to me ear­lier, wrapped her arms around my shoul­ders to pro­fess her love, was now wink­ing at me from across the kitchen is­land. She found her­self hap­pily vol­un­teered to un­pack glass­ware and re­place can­dles in vo­tives. The plan­ners could tell this wasn’t her first fancy party.

In an­other wink, she would help ar­range char­cu­terie on a stone serv­ing tray.

I may have been out of my el­e­ment, but she was in hers. It was the first fam­ily fete that she’d ever at­tended that had an or­ga­nizer and a spread­sheet check­list. She was in love.

The boy will be back, this time wear­ing a safety vest and hold­ing a walky-talky. Un­like his sis­ter, who is all se­ri­ous busi­ness, he is glee­fully squawk­ing made-up com­mands into the box: “We got a 23-19 out here. RE­PEAT. A 23-19.”

His job, which he chose to ac­cept, was to help park cars. “Help” be­ing a word used eu­phemisti­cally.

As guest cars ap­proached, my son dodged be­hind trees as if play­ing a game of keep away.

In­stead of try­ing to ex­plain he’s wear­ing a high­vis­i­bil­ity vest so he can be seen, I fol­low him around the yard beg­ging him to stand still for a pic­ture.

He’s still young enough to be adorable.

His sis­ter watches us from the kitchen win­dow as she care­fully builds a pyra­mid of macrons, cre­atively ar­rang­ing them by where they fall on the color spec­trum. She is happy to cor­rect any­one who calls the tasty delights “mac­a­roons,” ex­plain­ing in de­tail the dif­fer­ence be­tween the finicky al­mond meal sand­wich cook­ies and the sticky co­conut is­lands. She adds that her own at­tempts to make the con­fec­tions have not been en­tirely suc­cess­ful.

She is try­ing not to sound like a con­de­scend­ing know-it-all.

Luck­ily, she is suc­ceed­ing, though the guests won’t be put off by a pre­co­cious teen. This party, she will soon learn, has a wealth of guests who ac­tu­ally do know all things.

And in the com­pany of peo­ple who are so charmed, one can wit­ness the dif­fer­ence be­tween the type of con­fi­dence that breeds bene­fac­tors and the type that fu­els char­la­tans.

They don’t have much they haven’t al­ready proved.

In fact, they will find her charm­ing.

I know, be­cause many of them will ap­proach me with their im­pres­sions, which are laced with su­perla­tives.

I thank them for the com­pli­ments, as­sum­ing they think I am re­spon­si­ble. But I take no credit for ei­ther of my chil­dren. It’s hard to ex­plain that for most of our lives to­gether, it’s they who have molded me.

At the end of the evening, when I snake my hand into theirs and give a squeeze, I feel the love with­out ques­tion.

It’s more in­tox­i­cat­ing than the wine.

Siob­han Con­nally is a writer and pho­tog­ra­pher liv­ing in the Hud­son Val­ley. Her col­umn about fam­ily life ap­pears weekly in print and on­line.

Siob­han Con­nally

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