That may look like just a collection of Jack-o-lanterns to you, but it represents much more to me.
On Monday evening, one of my kids asked, "Can we carve pumpkins tonight?" I hesitated slightly as I responded, "Ummm, sure." I mean, I had not even bought pumpkins yet and here it was well into fall and just a few days before Halloween. Managing fall decor was just one more thing on my ever-growing to-do list. But Daniel, Annie and I quickly drove to the little produce stand in town to get some pumpkins. Needless to say, they were a little picked over. Daniel kept saying, "All of these have ugly spots on them." And he was right - there were no perfectly sized, perfectly round, perfect Jack-o-lantern pumpkins left. In fact, the man running the stand that evening said, "Those don't look very good, do they? How about I just charge you a dollar for each of them?"
I volunteered to scrape the guts out of all the pumpkins and a couple of us got started which eventually led to everyone in the house joining in the fun of carving. That evening, we ate dinner together at our table for the first time in a couple months. The beautiful thing about it was how normal it felt ... so remarkably normal.
After Katie's death, the question I asked and the question my kids asked was, "When will I feel normal again?" Well, the answer was not easy: probably never. We will never feel normal in the same way we did before. We might find a 'new normal' or learn how to function in the awkwardness of it, but life will never feel the same as it used to.
Sometimes it is our kids' activities taking us in different directions and away from the table where we used to sit for dinner most days. Sometimes it is the ages of our kids and their other relationships which interfere with the fun of a game night in the family room. Sometimes it is the pain of Katie's absence that causes me to let everyone sit in their corners of the house and not initiate any togetherness.
I think that must be why last Monday evening felt so good. A bit of laughter, a little teasing, some remembering, and - just like that - it felt like the Cobb 7 again.
It felt like normal. It wasn't. But it felt just like it.