They gathered at the worn and scratched dining room table like moths to a flame. Throw a pizza at them and they would stay for hours -- laughing, singing show tunes (rising at appropriate moments to do the official tap dance from 42nd Street on the oak floor) and talking about school, friends, the latest Grey's Anatomy or what dress they were planning to wear to prom. Laptops and phones were passed around, skyping with friends, making the circle wider and louder.
Marjorie was happy to maneuver among and between, clearing plates and re-filling glasses of Arnold Palmer. Every once in a while, she would be called into a skype session to say hello to a college friend in another state. The onslaught was music to her, the music of life and hopefulness. Her own three daughters, two of whom were present in the room and one skyping from California, were delighted to play the hosts. Marjorie knew her own importance deep down even when her mere presence seemed to demand eye-rolling.
Nicki got up from the table to rummage in the cupboard, emerging triumphantly with a bag of tortilla chips for the guacamole Marjorie had made a half hour ago. Henry took selfies while Sandy and Rachel came laughing down the stairs in matching onesie pajamas.
Marjorie's older son Ethan, an intense young musician with a a wild ride of red hair, was playing behind closed doors in the downstairs bedroom. Marjorie could smell the unmistakeable skunky odor of pot. Trying to ignore it, she knocked softly. "Want some pizza, love?" she asked through the closed door. "In a minute mom," Ethan answered softly. She could hear the window being opened, as she returned to a dining room chorale from The Book of Mormon.
Ethan appeared in the kitchen doorway a few minutes later. "I'll have a slice if there's any left," he said to his mother, reaching for a plate. Marjorie smiled a real and true smile. She put two large slices on his plate and handed him a paper napkin. "Thanks, mom." He found a seat amid the throng as they -- thrilled by his older brother awesomeness -- gave him center stage.
Marjorie thought of a line from Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. "People always think real happiness is a faraway thing . . . yet what little things can make it up: a place of shelter, a cup of strong hot coffee, a book to read, or just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness."