Our dinner table is set.
I call for the kids to wash their hands.
Dawson scrubs his fingers and palms first and then heads to his room to get his green blankie.
He pulls his large comforter across the cold tile floor and plops himself onto a wooden kitchen chair.
He begins to tug at the blanket so that it is halfway on his lap and halfway draped across his shoulder.
His voice is high, “I need some help.”
Dave walks over to him, “Here, stand up buddy.”
His gentle hands straighten the blanket, “Okay Dawson, now you can sit.”
Dawson’s almost-nine-year-old body falls back into the chair.
Dave has wrapped the blanket around both of Dawson’s shoulders, “You are set. Now wait for Mae Mae to finish washing her hands and then we will say the blessing.”
Mae Mae stands in front of the bathroom sink flipping her hair from side to side.
Her voice is booming, “Where ya think you going baby. Hey! I just met you and this is crazy, but here’s my number so call me maybe.”
I stand next to the bathroom door and say, “Mae sweetie, wash your hands.”
She uses the foaming hand wash and as she scrubs, her seven year old voice rings, “All the other boys try to chase me. But here’s my number so call me maybe”
She dries off her hands and runs to the dinner table.
Before her bottom can touch the wooden chair, she informs us that she needs her blanket too.
She runs to her room to get her twin size princess blanket that she has had since she was two years old; one of the last remaining princess items that she clings to with such honesty and joy.
And now we are seated.
I sit across from Dave and next to my two children wrapped in their dinner blankets.
I look at our table.
Mismatched plates and cups hold the food and drink that will nourish us.
And we ask, “Whose turn is it to say the blessing?”
Mae Mae’s voice booms, “It’s mine. It’s mine. Dawson said it last night.”
I sigh and look at Dave, “Yes, you are correct. Dawson did say it last night. It is your turn.”
She smiles, “I want to do Johnny Apple Seed.”
And with that, Dawson begins the blessing, “Oh, the Lord is good to me…”
Mae Mae’s face scrunches up and she sternly tells her brother, “No Dawson, it is my turn to say the blessing. Now I want to do the Open Shut Them blessing.”
I place my hand on Dawson’s arm, “Dawson, it is Mae Mae’s turn to say the blessing.”
Dave looks at Mae Mae, “Now, do not yell at your brother. He is not trying to take your turn.”
Her voice strong, “But he started to say it.”
My voice, having not an ounce of patience in it, “Mae Mae! Just say the blessing so that we can eat!”
“Open shut them, open shut them, give a little clap, clap, clap.”
She pauses and looks at Dawson.
He stares at her.
He says, “Open shut them, open shut them, give a little clap, clap, clap.”
She smiles, “Go ahead Dawson. What’s next?”
He spreads out his fingers and begins to creep them up his chest.
“Creep ‘em, creep ‘em, creep ’em, creep ’em, right up to your chin, chin, chin.”
His fingers brush the tip of his chin.
Mae Mae finishes, “Open up your little mouth but do not let them in.”
They both quickly close their mouths.
The verse begins again.
And so do they.
And then we bring our hands together and place them at our lips.
I close my eyes.
Mae Mae’s voice sings out, “We thank you Lord for happy hearts, for rain and sunny weather. We thank you Lord for this our food and that we’re all together.”
My eyes still closed.
My hands still at my mouth.
Dawson’s voice, “Amen.”
I open my eyes.
I look at Mae Mae.
Her eyes witness to a glorious miracle.
“Mama. He did it. I let Dawson say part of the blessing and he did it!”
I look at her.
I feel the warmth of her love.
“Mama. I taught him that blessing. I taught it to him! Mama he did it!”
I reach over and touch her hand.
Her body wiggling as she begins to eat the cheese off the top of her spaghetti.
“Sweetie, you helped your brother. I am so proud of you. You did it.”
I look at Dave, “Right. She helped Dawson.”
Their daddy’s eyes are red. He swallows.
“Yes, sweetie. You both did it. I am so proud of both of you.”
And with cheese on the floor.
Milk spilled on the table.
Children wrapped in blankets.
“We thank you Lord for this our food and that we’re all together.”
Copyright Cheairs Graves October 29,2012