The Arby’s forced air felt blessedly cool after two long, hot days at an amusement park and Lake Coeur D’Alene and two long, hot hours in the Suburban being bombarded in the back of the head with shrieks, questions, and complaints. We spent the previous night in a hotel room with five children and if that doesn’t make you feel just a little bit sorry for Matt and I well then you have never spent the night in a hotel room with five children.
The man wore one of those veteran ball caps that displays the emblems of past service and a slightly dirty white t-shirt stretched tightly over his impressive belly. He leaned over the half wall between our plastic booths and surveyed us, once again crammed into a space too small for us, children covered in ketch-up, baby Xavier banging the table with both fists from his awkward perch in Matt’s lap. The kids animatedly discussed whether the fake tree in the middle of Arby’s was a “real” fake tree or a “real” real tree with a fake bird’s nest because OBVIOUSLY the nest was fake. Duh.
“Are they all yours?” he asked me.
“No, not weally,” Quinn piped, always willing to spill our life story to the nearest stranger. (I wonder where he gets that tendency?) “We have four kids. That’s not our baby. He’s our foster baby. He just lives with us. Last week we had another baby, but two babies was too many. He had to sleep in Dad’s office. He left but Xavier will stay until he can go to his family.”
I threw him a weak, wide-eyed smile over the monologue. “We have a complicated family, but we have a lot of fun,” I told him with an apologetic shrug.
“Sweetheart,” he said, “I have four children in Texas who don’t speak to me and I can tell you something. It’s not that first word that matters. It’s the “family.”
It’s so quiet in our house this week. Quinn, Saige, and Garrett are at sleep-away camp. I have a quiet glass of wine beside me and I’m watching the Outlander premier for the second time (Do NOT miss … Starz. First episode is free on-line. You’re welcome.) and I can’t stop thinking about this small, quick moment in Arby’s.