My cousin’s three-year-old daughter Brekken tore around the sidewalk on her Schwinn trike. Each of us felt a mixture of affection for the cuteness of inhibited little ones playing their hearts out, and fear that our toes would most certainly get run over.
I chatted with my uncles about organic farming and the land registry booking business in Texas, and with my aunt about her job search.
In turn, everyone asked me about my girlfriend Amanda, the impending move to California and wished me well.
I munched on a hamburger with no bun and brussels sprouts I’d brought from home. For those who wanted to listen, I read my last column about our recent family reunion.
It was getting dark and my mind was running with pesky thoughts.
This would be the last time I would see some of them, unless they all came to my upcoming going away party.
Time slows for no man. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t stay here — and I don’t, because it’s time to go.
It’s simple. To allow new parts of my life to be born, I have to die in some others.
Still, there’s a melancholy, at the very least, when something passes away. We are slow to let go of what we’ve become so familiar with, even when we’ve been ready to let it go for a while.
So I let myself feel it. The pang in my heart that told me I would miss this more than I thought I would when I was a teenager. The crush of noise from the children, the murmur of the adult conversations, the sparklers fizzling and sparkling and catching everyone’s attention at intervals. My grandma wrapped silently in a blanket next to me, smiling contentedly at what has become her large family.
She smiled because she can, because she knows she’s lucky.
Earlier, in the house, she and my grandpa had unknowingly given me my own reason to smile. My grandma arose from her chair, slowly and arthritically, when she said something like, “I married a good man.”
My grandpa, in characteristic fashion, shook his head with a smile, never wanting to take credit for the good nature God endowed him with.
My grandma chuckled. “See how his head’s swelling now?”
And my grandfather responded with an arthritic joke: “It’s not my head that’s swelling.”
I experienced more love in that brief exchange than I have in watching any new couple’s first steps.
As the night reached its climax and the grandest fireworks were launched from the road, thoughts of the future faded for a moment as I let my vision be washed in explosions of light.
It struck me that in the history of the universe, there had never been a moment exactly like this, and there never would be again, not even if life on Earth continued for a trillion years.
This moment, with its unique configuration and atoms and particles, of personalities and families within families, of celebration — it could truly be called special.
I smiled then because I could, because I have a large family here who loves me and the woman I love waiting for me in California. I smiled because I’m lucky.
Matthew Stensland-Bos explores conscious living, loving, healing and grounded spirituality in Know This Love, a weekly SFBay opinion column. You can find him on his website, www.wordswithmatthew.com.