Headlocks and Footholds

By: Anne Marie Holloway

My earliest memory of meeting my husband’s three youngest cousins from Virginia is etched into my mind.  The three boys were in a pile on the floor of my husband’s childhood home.  They looked up at us from whatever mischief they were just causing amongst themselves and broke free from the headlocks and footholds they were in to greet my husband. I can still picture their cheers and happy little faces. I remember watching my husband’s humored expression as the boys knocked him off balance and onto the floor.  I can still hear his exacerbated and slightly surprised laughter as he fell to the ground under the force of their enthusiastic greeting.

That is how it always was when these fellas came to visit us here in New England.  My husband could not be happier to join in their mayhem. It was those times, watching my husband playfully interact with this group of rascals, that made me realize how good he was with kids.

Gram's Beach

We often met this handsome crew of southern gentlemen down at Humarock, spending hours on Gram’s Beach. The three boys were good-natured, well behaved, funny, and bright. They loved my husband and instantaneously welcomed me into their circle. I was honored.

As the years marched on, the boys grew. They went on to high school, college, jobs, new cars, marriage, and starting their own families.  Last summer, my youngest son was the ring bearer in the oldest boy’s wedding. It was awesome. I just stood and stared as I watched a taller version of the same little kid I knew all those years ago stand beside my youngest son as he began to recite his wedding vows. It was very cool, and I was honored.

At the wedding

This past Memorial Day weekend we got to meet up with them for a small family gathering. The three grown men met us in the driveway as we pulled up in the mini-van full of our own four kiddos. It took my breath away to see my children bursting with delight as they saw the three guys waiting for us. I laughed as mayhem ensued inside the minivan with the kids rolling down their windows, cheering, and unbuckling their seat belts before we came to a stop. They raced to be the first to reach their father’s cousins – their cousins.

I watched as the boys, now grown men, bent down to speak to my children. I smiled as they started a game of kickball with the kids. I felt grateful that I could actually eat a meal uninterrupted as the boys initiated a game of manhunt, while intermittently providing piggy back rides to my younger babes.  I barely saw my kids that day and that was okay because I knew they were in good hands. It was a perfect day spent with family.

Lauren playing kickball

As it grew later in the day, we knew it was time to go and we said our goodbyes. We all piled into the minivan, and with the windows rolled down we waved, shouted, and blew kisses. The van turned the corner and our family and friends faded out of sight. My little family settled in silently as we started our journey home, all of us feeling that strange combination of happiness and sadness when you have to leave those you love.

I listened with a wistful heart as my kids spoke about how much fun they had that day.

“I am gonna miss them,” a little voice said from the back of the minivan.

“Me too,” another one said, breaking the still, reflective quiet of the group.

“It’s just so sad,” wailed my youngest daughter, as she wept into the comforting shoulder of her sister.

I exchanged thoughtful glances with my husband, who tried to hide his smile.

I rested my head back on the passenger seat and closed my eyes while remembering first meeting those three boys in a pile on the floor. They were pretty amazing little kids back then, but they are even more amazing now. I am grateful that they let me into their circle so many years ago.

Who would have thought that headlocks and footholds would have made such an impact on me? I am so happy they did.

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