We have, in our household, created a tradition of sorts. When we gather round the dinner table, no matter the number, before we begin eating, we form a circle. We always join hands for a moment and say 'thank you' for the blessings we feel have been bestowed upon us that day. It has become a standard line, one with which all diners at the Dubov's are familiar:
"Thank you, Lord, for bringing us all together, for one more day."
With hands still joined in a circle, each person says what they are thankful for, that day, that minute or just in general. We laugh. We roll our eyes. It's all good.
We began this little tradition when our children were very small. The thought is that while we are all inclined to say what we are thankful for on Thanksgiving, when such considerations are expected, it would be useful to remember what makes us grateful on each and every day.
In the early days, Lynda would often join us. Given her age, I was mindful of the day when we wouldn't be "all together". In a way, it was a hedge against the certain future. Then, when Lynda died it seemed ironic, after all this time. And when Pierre died it seemed tragic.
But we kept forming that circle, night after night, no matter how many--or few--hands actually joined together for that one more day. Some days, it seemed like we said it out of habit; other days it was especially meaningful.
Given the events of the past couple of years, it often felt more like the former than the latter.
Then, when Nora was born, the circle expanded. Although she did not yet partake of Valery's fabulous cuisine, Nora came--with her parents in tow, of course--to Dine with the Dubovs.
Now, while I might have expected this--for Nora's birth came as no surprise--and I've had some time to consider how it might change our lives, the perfection of the circle came as revelation to me.
What circle is not perfect?
Unlike all other symbolic forms, the circle can contract or expand while losing nothing and gaining all. I see that death diminishes the circle not, for the absent, whether they be passed on, or merely in D.C., Michigan, California or across town, are always with us.
Those not or no longer in the circle are always there, in the hands held, the eyes met, the smiles mirrored. Birth, though it may not improve upon the perfection of the circle, expands it to encompass more hearts. The pulse of the family grows stronger.
The circle binds us by defining us. To be bound to anything is an curse to some; for me, the circle of hands around the table is life. Why shouldn't it be so?
I am bound so many things it seems pointless to rail against them all, or even one. I am bound by gravity to this sphere, by love to this woman, by honor to this family. Best of all to me is the fact that while so little of my life is actually of my making, I am undeniably made real and my life is given its value, by the bindings that are these relations.
Without that circle I would not wish to exist. That's easy enough to say, and may sound odd to others, as if spoken by the goldfish to the hungry housecat. Of course I like my little sphere. And my little rose. Is it merely because I know no different?
I know not.
What I know is this: When her soft cry mingled with the sound of clinking glasses, laughter and good conversation, Nora joined our circle. After but a few short weeks in this world, she's found her way to one of it's sweet spots.
Tout le monde! A table!