Like most fast food chains the physical layout of every Chick-Fil-A is always the same. You enter and on your left and right there are a booths and tables but there is a difference. The left side is quieter, mostly adults. On the right you will find the families with young kids and the kid favorite playground. There is always much more activity on the right side as the kids pour out of the playground to eat their lunch or parents pleading with kids to get out. It is usually louder, more hectic and messier on the right side.
Andrea and I had graduated to the left because our kids were grown and long past the height requirement to play in the gym. Not that I did not love the left side. I once threw off my shoes and jumped in the bin of colored balls with Nic. Andrea snapped a picture that day and all you can see is our heads and smiling faces amongst the red, blue, green and yellow balls. It is one of my favorite pictures of Nic and I. But that time in my life had long passed and we had moved to the left side, where conversations shifted from Sponge Bob to current events.
However, yesterday Ginger and I were ordering and we told the kids to go find a seat, a booth more specifically. When I got the food and went to sit down I saw the kids sitting not only on the right side but at the table up against the glass wall of the playground. For an instant I glanced at the quietness and neatness, cleanliness, and calmness of the left side and it was appealing to me. But when I looked back to the left I saw five little kids talking, yes mostly all at once , and yes in an ever upward spiraling volume as they try to be heard, but all with smiles on their faces. I heard the laughter and joy of kids running to and from the playground not the noise. I saw the excitement of kid's opening the surprise toy that came with lunch, not the mess. My life is on on the right side once again. As I sat with Ginger and we discussed this shift in life style she said, "But you like the right side don't you?" "Yes, Yes I do."
The rules have become much more stringent then my last time I sat on the left side, and I doubt I will ever be able to sneak into playground and go down the slide and spill out into the thousands of brightly colored balls as I did with Nic. But this past summer I came home from work on a hot summer day and the kids were in the pool enjoying the cool water. As I watched them playing and laughing I took off my boots, removed my wallet and phone from my flight suit and took off running and leaped into the pool. I can still see the shock on Bella's face as she saw me hit the pool in my uniform. It was a look of disbelief and happiness that was soon followed by laughter.
I know it will be all to soon when Ginger and I move to the other side. I do look forward to our time of uninterrupted conversation but I will also look back to the other side with a slight ting of longing.
As I was finishing this blog Aspen walked in, her beautiful smile and amazing blue eyes, gave me a hug and said, "I love you Daddy." I wish I could capture the softness and sweetness of her voice in my typed words but I guess you just have to be here. I can assure you it was in that moment that I remembered the honor and the joy of sitting on the other side. I know how fast they go up and you miss miss the innocence of a child, the unconditional love, the simplicity of life to a little girl and the adornment you feel as a father. I know the time will come far too fast when I'm replaced by some young man that catches her eye.
Well it is Saturday morning and I have three hungry girls climbing all over me asking for "pan-a-cakes" so I will close. I always remember howAndrea loved to make the kids pancakes. She always took the time to make shapes and the boys would try to guess. I think in honor of Andrea I will do that today. I know Andrea would love to be in my place this morning. I can picture her bending over and asking the girls "What shape would you like?" Andrea had the most gentle spirit and she loved being with kids especially little girls. She loved the left side of Chick-Fil-A and I do to.
Okay I just finished making breakfast. I guess this is my first a real time blog as it happens. I did my best to make a heart, a car, a bus, boat, a fish and of course a snowman. The kids seemed to like them and I thought I was representing Andrea pretty good. Then Aspen came up and asked, "Daddy is there an Elephant?" No I said that is out of my league but I knew someone who probably could have made that happen.