settle – verb| set·tle | \ˈse-təl\
: to end (something, such as an argument) by reaching an agreement
: to make a final decision about (something)
: to move to a place and make it your home
On Saturday evening, we packed sweatshirts, lawn chairs, and the boys in the van, and headed over to church for an End-of-Summer Bash.
On the way, we stopped and picked up two bags of kettle chips and an over-priced fruit tray. Earlier in the day I remarked confidently how I didn’t need to prove myself with a homemade dish. I had worked all day, and there was barely time. “I feel liberated,” I boasted to my husband after making the easy decision. On the way, I became sheepish. “Maybe I should take an empty bowl and dump baked beans from the deli in it,” I said.
“Or just buy baked beans from the deli and taken them in the container they come in,” Steve challenged.
“Okay, I’ll stick with chips and fruit.”
When we arrived, a bonfire was blazing, and the buffet line was bulging. There were no fewer than ten casserole dishes of baked beans. I held out my chips to the ladies organizing. “I decided not to feel bad for bringing chips and a fruit tray,” I said, feeling bad anyway. “This is the best I could do today.” I noticed there were no other bags of kettle chips, and my fruit tray was the only healthy alternative among the desserts. I felt better.
Eventually, we set up our folding chairs with everyone else’s around the fire. After giving thanks, and filling plates, we settled in for a meal and eventually singing around the fire. Throughout the evening, we scooted our chairs closer and closer to the warm flames as the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped.
Our oldest son was at work and missed the event entirely. Our youngest son was off playing with friends most of the evening after being first in line for a hotdog and chips. Our middle son stayed close, growing colder by the minute despite assuring us earlier he wouldn’t need a jacket. Eventually, Steve shed his sweatshirt and wrapped it around Caleb.
The event didn’t last long with the unseasonable cold front whipping around us. I was secretly happy to be leaving; it had been a tiring day. Through some clever middle school negotiating, we ended up with an extra boy coming home with us and staying the night. And though what I really wanted to do was change into my pajamas and watch a few episodes of Call the Midwife on Netflix, instead I suggested a second campfire in the comfort of our own backyard. “I’ve got stuff for s’mores if anyone’s interested!” I called as the boys were heading in to play computer games.
Our fenced-in yard became a vortex of smoke rising from the wood Steve was lighting with newspaper, kindling, and our disposable Bic torch lighter. As the first started to catch, the boys came out to begin roasting marshmallows, constantly moving around the metal fire pit to avoid the smoke. Everyone had eaten their s’mores and gone back in to wash the sticky off, and Steve was still working on the blaze. I was now rotating our chairs around the fire, trying to avoid the smoke and attempting to keep Tilly’s tail from getting scorched by the flames.
At one point, I nearly gave up. It had been my idea; I should be the one to call the thing off if it wasn’t working. But then, the wind began to die down; the flames relaxed; and our chairs ended up within comfortable talking distance. Steve and I settled into a conversation like we hadn’t had in days.
Of course we all smelled like smoke, including Tilly, who remained surprisingly free of singed tail hair. But I was reminded how most of the best things in life take a little time. And if we quit too soon, we’ll never reap the rewards that come when we settle in. It takes a lot of being unsettled to achieve those few quiet moments when all feels well.
Most of the time, it’s worth it.
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Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.