When we were young, he slapped my face and I wished him harm. We were not friends, but cousins, and not particularly close ones at that. This was the summer we infiltrated their camps, my sister and I, sleeping between camo sheets and feeling displaced.
His baby sister, she was the prize. She toddled then and we all vied for her affections (as you do with small children), but I won her over with my newly acquired young mama hips and long, wavy hair perfect for brushing. She grasped my hand as we stood there on the brown grass, while wild boys raced round us on wild boy business. In that moment, I was her mother and we were a family and it didn’t matter that at the time I had no father and my own mother was on the other side of the state.
I remember there being a boy my age, kicking up dirt and playing cool. I don’t remember his face or his name, but only curly brown hair, which seemed good enough for me. I thought if he saw me with the child, how good I was with her, how she loved only me, how my white tank top bounced off my very tan shoulder, he would love me, too. I think maybe we held hands once, when no one was looking. But as they all do, that summer ended, my sister and I went home to our mother, and I forgot his name.
My cousin, the face-slapper, grew up well and heads this way now: to my home and my own toddling children whose affections people now covet. He brings his wife, moving on towards the next adventure in their newlywed life. My husband counts him among his handful of best friends, having walked beside him when he was displaced. One by one, he won the children over, and won me over, too.
When they walk in the door, there are hoots and cuddles and stories. When the children go to bed, we fill up on food and drinks and share the hard stuff. The questions, the work, the prayers, the victories, and the losses. And sometimes we just sit, play music, and speak without words.
This, I have come to realize: we built a family without knowing it. My husband and I, then our children, friends who became like family, and family who became the best of friends.
I think of that summer and how lost I seemed, how aged I felt, how I knew the secret that sometimes things don’t work out the way we thought they would. I think of Jesus looking down from a hole in the sky, staring through the scope of His heart down to my toes in the brown Kansas grass and my hand holding on tightly to the baby girl.
How will this work out, I asked Him then. Who will love me? Who will be my family?
Oh that I could show her how He held her all the while.
Originally posted at SarahBessey.com.