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Bigger than…


Miles is a whirlwind, a hurricane human.

In our small dining room I coach him constantly to lower his voice. I assure him he can still make his point, still get the floor with all of us sitting there. In the dining room he sits in the back corner of the long table, the table that takes up most of the space. It fills the room. He tilts his chair back, throwing caution to the wind, talking non stop and high-pitched and loud volume, pulling out all the stops because he is the youngest of us all. He has to fight for attention. He is large and in charge or at least this is what he wants us to think.

At 9 he knows how to work the system. He has to know it or he will get lost in the crowd of his extroverted family members and lost even in the persistent intentions of the family introverts. At 9 he weaves and bobs and fills the empty spaces with his voice and his body and his gestures. When the voice isn’t loud enough he tosses in a mild swear word to buoy the attention back to him. He marks his place in our loud and gregarious family with whatever he can so that he is not left out, left behind, left waiting his turn. It’s hard to be the smallest in a family of large personalities.

We are on a great expanse of beach this week, a vacation my husband planned a year ago in Chicago in the midst of winter. “I can’t go another winter without a break” he told me. “We might be getting old when it comes to this,” I respond. So we planned the trip and paid with travel miles and leftovers and credit cards and we waited patiently for the Winter to end, the Spring to follow, the Summer to heat up, the Fall to roll in and then to find ourselves back here- snow, ice, snow, ice, snow.

We sat on the beach that first full day in Mexico and I watched as Miles ventured into the waves throwing caution to the wind but the wind was strong and the waves were stronger. He was, then, small in the world again. We were all small in the world on that beach. He shouted into the wind. He sailed into the waves. He smiled with some delight and some fear and some relief too.

While he ran around the beach feeling the space of it, the range of it, I thought “he needs this. He needs the reminder of ‘bigger than.'” And I realized I need it too, the reminder of “bigger than,” the reminder of being the small ship on the big sea.

When he came to sit next to me the scale of things adjusted again in the space between us. He spoke calmly, smiled freely, placing his hand in mine and things were the way they always were, hands felt the way they always felt, arms wrapped around us in safety and peace and heavy sighs of warm air, sea air- bigger than us, bigger than all of us.

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