“Austin can’t come to the phone right now,” my aunt Nancy said to me. “He’s skinny dipping in the pool. I told him he needs to do it fast because the girls will be out there soon!”
I laughed, and I could see the smile on her face as well. “Okay, well can I talk to Claire or Tommy?” I asked. In the background, Claire ran by and said, “I can’t talk now!” as she fell over laughing about something. I could see her performing some sort of skit (or dance?) for my Aunt Terry. They were both laughing, and Claire’s enthusiasm was matched by Terry’s.
Nancy yelled for Tommy and he came running. I could barely see his face in the video call because he still hasn’t really figured out how to use a phone. “Hi mama!” he said.
“Hi baby,” I said. “Are you having fun?”
“Oh, it’s SO FUN,” he said, and then he paused. “Grandpa Tom has ice cream!”
The phone fell to the ground. Clearly, my kids were having a great time in Texas. They were there for Spring Break, and I was home in DC. My school’s break had already passed, and it was right before the AP examinations, so I knew I couldn’t take another week off. Instead, my dad volunteered to take the kids to see my Texan family for a week of fun. There are 14 cousins when we all get together (12 boys and 2 girls!) and my Aunt Nancy (aka “Nana“) joyfully welcomed the chaos into her home. My Aunt Terry came in from out of town to see the kids and my cousins and their kids came over constantly for support and fun.
And, like always, every day was a party.
My kids ate more ice cream and Oreos than they’d had in the previous six months, and they swam each day for hours. They spent time on two different ranches with family members, feeding cows and riding horses. I mentioned that Austin’s clothes were way too small for him and Claire needed some shorts, and then all three kids came home with new wardrobes. “Aunt Terry got us all these things at the mall!” Austin told me one night, as he joyously went through all of his treasures.
My kids had a blast. But even without the toys and the ice cream and the adventures, they would want to be in Texas. They would want to be there because it is a place where they are deeply loved.
I know this because every night when I’d call, my dad, my Aunt Terry and my Aunt Nancy would get on the phone and tell me about the day. “These kids are so darling!” Terry always said. “We’re having the best time!” Nancy always said. “Everyone is doing great!” my dad always said.
And because of FaceTime, I could see their smiles as they told me about the kids. It was chaos there, to be sure. But the joy – that part was also real.
One night, I was telling my Aunt Nancy about my summer schedule and our plans to come back to Texas in July. “I know you’ll need to go away to see your sister and her new baby at some point that month,” Nancy said, “so don’t worry about the kids then. We’ve got them covered here.”
“You’re so great,” I said. “I also might need to figure out how to get them back to you in August. I have to start work a week before they start school, because my schedule is different this year.”
“Well,” Nancy said, “bringing them back here would be fine, but we can also come up there.”
“That would be great,” I said. “My dad may also be able to come early to DC. I’m just not sure about the logistics yet.”
“Well, if not, we have you covered,” she said. “Someone will come at the end of the summer. So don’t worry about that at all.”
On my calendar that night, I wrote on that last week of summer, “kids with Clark family member(s) in DC.”
I don’t know who will come. My schedule could change and I might not need the help. But here’s what I do know – if I need someone to come and help me through a week or a month or a year, the Clark family will have my back.
When my sister and I were babies and my mom was too sick to care for us, we were sent to live in Texas with the Clark family for a long stretch of time. Years later when she died, the Clark family showed up for weeks, and my cousin Jim stayed for a month. When Shawn died every single one of my cousins (and their spouses) came in for the funeral, and my aunt Nancy stayed for weeks. I obviously don’t even need to go into what my dad has done for me, but here’s the thing – he’s just doing what the Clark family does. We show up.
Sometimes I feel really alone. Sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to make it. But then I remember my aunt’s voice:
“Someone will come.”
And when I need them, someone always does.