We rally round our kitchen table as a centre point of family life.
It is always covered in crumbs, glitter, coins, bottle tops, and all those things that make the world go round. It is a big old wooden affair. Scuffed, scratched, and full of a history that unfolds stronger with every day; a good metaphor for our lives.
This table provides the rooftop to CHT’s most traumatised overspills, and the work space for our most adventurous creations. It is the centre-point of celebrations, the boardroom to our most vital family decisions, and the bastion of calm to my white knuckles during those moments when the challenges of parenting a traumatised child prove too great. But best of all, it is the place she and I first laughed together; really laughed.
It was about the sixth or seventh day we had met. We were making dinner – fish fingers. Adoptee children all too often find food and eating complicated. They can have complex compulsions to hoard or steal and do strange things with it. They often arrive with limited experience of food, and the foods they do know don’t ‘match’ the foods you produce (think – the difference between your shepherd’s pie and mine; unrecognisable). And fourthly (though I bet there is a fifth and sixth), food can be one of the areas where the control issues associated with attachment will flare.
So there we were, skating on the thin ice of her participation while going through each stage of cooking. We had pinnies and music, filled three little bowls with egg, flour and breadcrumbs, and cut some gorgeous plump pieces of haddock. She was so serious and reluctant, but followed along once she was sure there was no pressure, experimenting with feeling and dipping into the ingredients. Experiencing perhaps for the first time the great commensal art that is food. Absorbed, she coated the fish, her fingers, and our grand old table.
On finishing the last piece, she looked up triumphant and announced: “now we make a box and put them in the freezer”.
I don’t know why but the laughter just started; infectious and magical and real and honest. It grew, and it hit our bellies; and we both stood there laughing the tears right out of our eyes. Making wiggly clawing motions with our breadcrumbed fingers till our sides ached and our lungs were gasping for air.
Looking back, I see how that laughter shattered the heavy tension that hangs over the first days of an adoption. It offered a brief respite from the intensity, and flooded us both with a dawning hope that there may be some interlude to the hurt and loss and fear that had come crashing its way into our lives. It brought us stumbling to our first sunlit patch of common ground, the crazy overlap between our two worlds: here – the place where fish fingers are made, and there – where fish fingers come out of a box from the freezer.
But eclipsing all the analysis and hindsight was that pure and extraordinary magic moment, when the simple transformative power of our shared laughter opened the door to something deep between us; and our hearts beat as one for the very first time.
In that very instant, stood around our table, we were no longer strangers.
This post is written as part of The Oliver’s Madhouse “Magic Moment Mondays”.