So there we were at our favorite local burrito place the other night, and I was noticing how many kids and families were there. There were babies in high-chairs, kids carrying plates of nachos, kids carrying drinks, kids running around. I was eating my burrito, noticing it all, and I began to feel a little out-of-place. I thought to myself, wow did I come here on kids eat free family night or something?
And then I looked across the table at my wife. And I looked at my almost one year old sitting in her high chair eating guacamole. And it suddenly hit me – I’m a family now.
I don’t know why this surprised me. I guess I’ve been on the outside for so long, looking in at families, and kids being kids, and parents chasing them down and reining them in, that sometimes I catch myself still thinking of myself as the person I was.
Obviously I know who I am. I know I’m a parent, and a husband, and part of a family. I’m a unique individual who’s part of something bigger than just myself. But sitting there that night the odd thing was that I could think of myself as outside, when really I was one of them. I’d joined the parents’ club almost a year ago, and the married club a few years before that. What hit me wasn’t so much, “I’m a part of a family now” as it was, “How could I think of myself as anything else.”
It’s hard to describe the nuance of what went through my head. It’s kind of like looking at one of those pictures of the two faces in silhouette that suddenly becomes a picture of a wine goblet. You know what I mean. The picture is an optical illusion. It’s both things at the same time. When one suddenly pops you can’t believe you didn’t see it before.
I see myself as I am. But for a moment it was as if I was looking through the eyes of the old me at the present me, and I didn’t recognize myself.
I felt as someone might feel experiencing a twinge of a symptom associated with a long past disease though it was just a shiver because the sun went behind the clouds, or someone who suffered abuse as a child suddenly being startled by a loud noise or a raised voice across a room, or unexpectedly catching the scent of fresh-baked bread that takes you back to a joyful memory of your childhood.
For the briefest of moments you’re in that other place, and you are that other person, though you’re here and a different person now.
For a moment I was the single me looking at the family me, not recognizing myself, when suddenly the picture popped. I knew who I was, and I could ponder the vision of that other me.