Meeting In the Living Room of Memories
A Personal Essay by Tori Fawson
Flashback to the night my family gathered together for a different reason.
I opened my off-white bedroom door, hearing the familiar creak that would accompany it when it was two thirds of the way open. I walked down the hallway, avoiding the parts of the floor that seemed to cry in anguish when stepped on, towards my family room which had light protruding from it. The hustle and bustle of life was overwhelmingly loud: kids were running and screaming everywhere, playing tag or driving pretend cars through the adults' legs, my brothers talked about work and their recent endeavors sporadically while listening to the game that was on the television, and the women in our family spoke of what women talk about, their topics of conversation never on one consistent track.
It was unusual to have every single family member present at the same time. Every special occasion seems to always have someone missing; whether for work, travels or something unexpected. This occasion had everyone there, laughing and enjoying the stories of memories made together, but still had a thick tension in the air that seemed to suffocate everyone. Everyone was there because this occasion was different.
The couches in my family room weren't big enough to hold everyone, so the men had slid the rolling chairs from the kitchen to the edge of where the dining room hardwood met the family room carpet so they could be a part of the conversation that would soon begin. The setup was almost like every other family gathering: Christmas, except the people are normally split up into their own families, facing the Christmas tree in front of the window while the kids sit impatiently on the floor waiting for their toys to be opened before they can go play. Birthday parties, where everyone sits randomly and the birthday girl/boy sits with almost a whole couch to themselves to make room for their presents. New Years, except with our family more centered around the table and the food, rather than the usual carpeted gathering place.
So many memories decorate the smells and the laughter of the room constantly occupied with people: Announcements that someone is pregnant, the laughter and competitive spirits created by the new Wii placed in front of the living room, the music that our family seems to somehow be centered on from fun nights of karaoke and dance parties, the center of blanket forts and cardboard box towns, a home theater filled with reclining chairs and popcorn, and even a counseling office.
There, in the middle of all the craziness, were my parents, holding hands, distant, but still smiling at the recalled memories. It was odd for my mom to be sitting in a house full of people; normally she'd be up making food of some sort or getting her grandkids drinks. On her birthday she even tries to help get the cake baked and frosted, ice cream scooped, and the plates full of sweet treats passed out. We usually have to force her to sit down. But not this time, she just sat next to my dad, tears and fear showing themselves in her wise and understanding brown eyes. She was the strongest person I knew and still know to this day. She looked so brave sitting on the couch that night. I knew right then that I could be brave like she was.
I sat down on the floor, my back leaning against the piano bench that faces the east wall. It had been a long day. The immense amount of emotions in me conflicted in every way and even though I was filled with emotion, I felt hollow. The family dinner we had just eaten was one I'll never forget. While watching everyone in the room, I was grateful for my family; I loved them. I knew that what the near future held for us was going to bring our family even closer together. We would need each other to lean on.
Sitting there, observing my family, I thought of a scripture from the Book of Mormon, "Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great." Not only did we have a lot of family in my living room, like the Nephites did, but because we had a family, we were "exceedingly great." My family is not perfect. But we still have something invaluable and precious just being part of a family.
The family theme is very prevalent throughout the Book of Mormon. Lehi left all of his gold and treasures to go to the wilderness, but he made sure he had his family with him. Nephi took his family, and those who wanted to go with him, and left Laman and Lemuel's family to protect his own. People traveled in families and stuck together. They worshipped together, they worked together, they prayed for each other. This theme has immersed itself into my family where we worship, work, and rejoice together. They're the center of my life. I would follow them into a wilderness of our own like so many families did in the Book of Mormon.
My family, the one that has bonded over years of meeting in that family room, came together again that night with a different fear than any of us had felt before. We had all fasted that day for my mom’s health and good recovery. The kids had finally all come to a stop at the foot of the couches, sensing the somberness, as we sat in silence for a few moments. Tears flowed easily from everyone’s eyes, including my brothers’. And then, in the middle of the living room that cemented our memories together, as one exceedingly great and giant family, we knelt in prayer for my mom, like the Book of Mormon people did in ancient times. We all gathered together, as a blessing was put on her head, to have a safe recovery from the surgery she was going to have the next day. I felt peace come over me. I knew that she would fight this breast cancer and be okay again. I knew she was going to survive.