My twins look up at Kyle.
They have shy smiles and occasionally duck their heads, cast their eyes down and hunch their shoulders, as they flicker between pride and embarrassment. Julia reaches up and gives a gentle tug of Kyle’s dark blue silk tie. Sean shifts his weight from leg to leg. There is so much love in the room for every inch of their seven-year-old bodies.
Kyle, my second husband, is adopting my children and we are surrounded with family. His – a kind, gentle clan from Iowa. Mine – an eclectic mix of loud and soft with divorces that have added many branches to our tree.
I smile as I survey the banquet room of Salty’s, swept up in bright love for my extended family. Kyle stands next to me – he is telling a story. He holds in each hand a small rock. He has carried these rocks for years, since the day I allowed him to meet my then toddlers, on a warm August afternoon at Shilshole Beach. Each child had lifted a stone and stretched out pudgy arms to give him these gifts.
“I think of Jim every day,” Kyle’s voice cracks, “because I now have the life he was meant to.”
Elliott Bay and the city of Seattle sparkle in front of us. In addition to our family, the Salty’s staff gathers in the doorway, curious to watch a video I have secretly prepared for Kyle. The video documents him with the kids from age two until now, following his journey into fatherhood.
At two they called him “Ky-ky.” At three they called him “Daddy Ky-ky.” By four, they simply called him “Daddy.”
In one of the final video clips, the then four year old twins sit at our home’s dining room table eating breakfast in their striped cotton pajamas. The sun is streaming in, and Julia, with her blonde curly morning hair proclaims, “Daddy, when I’m eight years old, I won’t eat waffles!”
We can hear but can’t see Kyle. “What will you eat instead?”
“Mashed bananas!” Julia giggles. “We ate that when we were babies. Mommy had to eat smooshy food and it went down to us. Yeah.”
“That was a long time ago.”
Julia counts “Four, three, two, one, zero!” while Sean says, “Daddy, part of it was when you were not in our city.”
“Yeah, I didn’t know you guys when you were eating mashed bananas.”
Sean is licking syrup from his fingers. “But did you knowed Mommy?”
“No, I didn’t know any of you.”
Julia is walking her sticky fingers across the table. “Daddy, do you know who was Mommy’s…” she pauses, “…who was our Daddy? ‘Cause it was Daddy Jim. He got cancer…so he died. So we found a new Daddy.”
“But Daddy? Know what?” Sean asks, as Julia lets out a big syrupy cough, interrupting him. “Daddy, since Julia coughed I don’t know what to say now.”
Julia scrambles onto her knees, eyes bright, smile wide, “I’ll try to keep my coughs in my belly!”
In the banquet room, laughter mixes with tears, and I hear my 87-year-old grandmother, who keeps forgetting that she’s already had her one glass of white wine so one has quickly become three, calling out over the din, “What? What is funny? I can’t hear anything. Turn it up!”