A Still pond.
Unseen. Unknown. Hidden from view except to those wayward raindrops.
A swift motion changes the light; the movement shifting the composition.
The ripples begin small at first taking time to grow, some clashing against each other, others joining together to augment their power till every inch of the pond is turbulent with change.
The wind created dies into a quiet whispering breeze. Then nothing.
The pond stills. In appearance unaffected, unaltered.
Yet. Never the same. Changed forever.
This past Wednesday I sat at a dinner table. At a seat to the left of the birthday girl. The love at the table glowed brighter than the candles. As I sat there, listening to the words all I could think is how I came to be in that place. My heart positively exploding with love, as my face exploded into laughter and smiles.
We go through life without being aware of every single thing that happened to bring us to this moment. Sometimes, we try to forget the things that brought us here. Not me. I dive into my past, I can see it like an unraveling ball of yarn. I can see the consequence of that meeting, like a string tied around my waist that stretches back almost 30 years to the moment Harriet answered the phone when Ma called about being a Nanny for the Lewis family.
Earlier that evening I brought Tuna Balls (in Sri Lanka they’re called cutlets) because there is no better audience in the world for my Tuna balls than the Lewis family. I was the first to arrive at the newly renovated house and I took the liberty of exploring the hollow cavities of the yet unfurnished home and revisiting my early childhood. I found the rooms that were once- a long time ago- my Ma’s. Empty as they were I heard echoes of conversations, and had flashes of memories. As I stood in that empty room I thought about how many lives had been touched by a simple phone call. Like ripples in a pond that grow till they touch the infinite edges, like the turning of a wave that refreshes the sand on the beach- the lives of hundreds of people changed with one meeting. The most immediate lives touched are those of mine and my siblings.
Sometimes I wonder if they felt it. I wonder if Alan and Harriet and my mom felt the direction of so many lives changing. I wonder if they felt a breeze of a tsunami caused by the flutter of butterfly wings. I wonder if there was an unexplained pause when the whole universe held its breath. I wonder if they heard the splash as the pebble hit the water and the ripples started.
The night progressed with love and laughter. Charlotte (who is the older sister I always wanted, and for all intents and purposes always had) likes to say, “I love, love!” And that was no doubt the theme of the night. Bubbly champagne, not unlike her bubbly personality, toasts of love, toasts of laughter, toasts of promise and futures; toasts of pride and good luck. There are always Words when you share a meal with the Lewises. Words of love, encouragement, open words, courageous words. There is no hiding behind pretense, no falsity. Only honesty and an open environment where you may speak your mind, free of judgment or constrictions of any kind. I told Harriet later, “Spending time with you and your amazing family always makes me feel like my soul has been recharged.” All the love and positive energy in their company is so therapeutic.
There isn’t a distinction in my heart of that family and my family. We are very much one big extended family. My mother fashioned her life after this family she admired so much. If you look you can see clearly the parallels in the life my parents built for themselves. She worked, she grew, she learned, she aspired. Alan told me Ma didn’t learn those values, but they just helped enhance values that were already within her. Whichever way they were acquired, they were the tools used in my upbringing that make it so easy to relate to and fall into step with the Lewis family. My family.
There are some stories that only families share. We have a few of those.
Like the time my mom was dating a born again Christian Kevin- and how he would take her to bible retreats. Harriet tells the story of how she “saved us” from Kevin. Even my Ma remembers fondly how after meeting Kevin Harriet motioned with a finger across her neck- he just HAD TO GO!
We lived with Harriet’s mom- Nana- my first grandmother for several years, helping to take care of her.
One evening we’re sitting for dinner. My brother is about a year old. He sits beside Nana in he’s high chair. Nana is having her dinner. She turns to my brother’s irresistibly adorable face and starts singing, “Lalalalala!” between bites of her own dinner. My brother watches her, curious but quiet. Nana takes a small bite of her ham, and seeing the baby watching her, stops chewing her bite and sings “lalala—-“ the baby, with impeccable timings puts his hand into her open mouth, pulls out the piece of ham and eats it. YES. That happened.
I like to think the Lewises knew me before I was born. Char and Ed were my first siblings. In fact I was quite convinced they were mine own brother and sister. It was a big lesson in relationships and race for a 4-year-old when my family migrated back to Sri Lanka, and my “actual” cousins were quick to inform me, “Charlotte and Edward aren’t your brother and sister, they are white and you are brown!”
My first memories are in their Nana’s house or in their own home; memories of them, of their cousins: I remember pinching Jon, and playing with Mikey; memories of Char’s pink room and playing with her, looking up to her; being terrified of the bear in Alan’s study- but slowly peeking in just to see if it had moved.
Before everyone arrived I stood on the landing of their staircase and I knew 27 years ago my parents stood in the same spot and spoke their marriage vows.
I hadn’t even been an idea. Suddenly, I was distracted by a light coming through the window in the front of the house. The bright red “Sheraton” sign glinted off the glass. Zoom out. Rewind. 1985. My Dad was working at the Sheraton as a chef. He would finish work and walk over to the house. He would spend hours talking to my mom. He was so cool, rebellious with he’s long hair, devil may care attitude, but he grew on the Lewises. No decapitations for him. A few months later my parents stood where I was standing and began the partnership that to this day puts to shame any fairytale romance.
It’s amazing to me how lives touched by other lives spread out like the ripples in a pond. Sometimes I try to figure out how many people have been touched by that fateful meeting between the Lewises and my mother and it’s unfathomable. My parents Lives. My life. My siblings Lives. My extended family. Every life they’ve touched. The lives my cousins touch. The lives their children will touch. And so it goes until a universe of love and laughter can all be traced back to one moment, and a million moments since then.
Life, like the pond, is a strange thing. It is mystical and mysterious. I rush to the top as I reach the end of my breath. When my face breaks the surface I know I’ve found a deeper understanding and a deeper connection to the relationships in my life. I revel in the love that is profuse in my pond. I revel in the glow of my own heart that is positively exploding with love. I close my eyes and as water drips down my face I think about how blessed I truly am to have the people I have, to love the people I love.
The pond ripples occasionally, and lives are added and subtracted.
New experiences, new turbulence.
The pond stills. Deep.
Light fades. Unseen.