I don’t know how it started. I was busy in the kitchen when the fight broke out. It wasn’t a real fight, just a disagreement.
One minute, they were fine, happy and laughing. Then somehow, feelings got hurt. Tempers flared. And one of them went storming out to the patio to sit alone, looking sad.
One of the great joys of my life is getting to see how much my grandchildren love each other.
The cousins don’t get to spend a lot of time together. But they seem to know somehow that they are special to each other; that they are more than just friends; that they are “family.”
They have a nana who adores them, a Papa Mark who’s like one of them, and aunts and uncles who dote on them.
They say hello with hugs and goodbye with “I love you’s.” And when a family gathering puts us all under one roof? They have a rip-roaring, wing-ding good time together. Usually.
It’s natural for children to have what my grandmother called “falling outs.” I grew up with more cousins than I could count. I loved them all, some more than others. We had “falling outs” left and right.
If we complained to an adult, we were told to “Work it out.” So we did. Usually. Actually, my cousins and I were better at “working out” differences than some many of our elders were.
My mother and her eight sisters were as close as could be, for nine women who grew up sharing an outhouse. But their “falling outs” were apocalyptic.
In their 60s, my mother and her sister Hazel phoned each other every day. Once, when Aunt Hazel called, Mama said, “Call me later, Hazel, I’m eatin’ a Popsicle.” Then she hung up.
Aunt Hazel was livid. She couldn’t believe her sister hung up on her for something as piddly as a Popsicle. Hours later, when Mama called, Aunt Hazel promptly hung up.
This went on for months. They took turns. One would call, the other would hang up, and they’d both get mad all over again.
I am glad to tell you they got over it before they died. I don’t know how. I doubt there was any apology. I suspect they just grew weary of being distant and went back to being sisters.
Isn’t that how families often “work it out?” We grow weary of being distant. We let go of the thing that caused it. And we go back to being a family.
When I looked out and saw Henry sitting alone on the patio, I went out to check on him. But then, a lovely thing happened.
Randy, who is 7, came running out of Henry’s room, where they had been playing earlier, and sat down on the patio beside Henry.
I stopped at the door to watch.
For a minute, they just sat without speaking. Randy kept glancing at Henry. Finally he reached out and offered Henry something he held in his hand. Not an olive branch. A Lego.
Henry took it. Randy said something I didn’t hear, and Henry nodded. Then they laughed and hugged like long lost bears, and ran off to play.
I wish you could’ve seen them.
I still don’t know how it started, but I will never forget how it beautifully it ended: One child held out a handful of love. And the other child accepted it. And just like that, in the twinkling of an eye, love bridged the distance between them.
I often hear from readers who’ve had a “falling out” that ripped their family apart. Some are at peace with being distant. Others pray for a bridge.
When we feel hurt, it’s not easy to offer love, or to accept it. But before giving up, we might want to ask: Are our differences worth fighting over? Or is family worth fighting for?
“Falling outs” come in all different sizes. Some are too painful to bridge. But life is short and family is too precious to allow something as little as a Lego or as piddly as a Popsicle to stand in the way of love.