I would like to blame the snowstorm for making us late for church, but that would be a lie.
We are late because there are six of us and there's a limit to the number of hot showers you can take in a half hour and because Betsy didn't like the first three or four sweaters she tried on.
Let's face it … we are late because we're always late, or so it seems.
Thankfully, there's room to slide into a pew near the back of the church in a spot where Jim can find us easily after he accomplishes the husbandly task of parking the car.
Within a few minutes, he slides into the pew next to our son, and at last, we're all assembled in God's house for an hour of worship and prayer.
We may even experience a mystical moment of family harmony, assuming Jimmy and Amy don't fuss and fight about the placement of one's winter jacket or the closeness of an elbow or some other equally trivial irritant.
They say the family that prays together stays together, but sometimes I wonder.
The snowstorm has kept lots of folks home on this Sunday morning, so there are several open pews ahead of us. The open seats enable me to watch a young family sitting about eight rows up — the husband and wife look to be about 30; their sons are probably 3 years old and about 18 months old.
The boys are dressed alike in holiday plaid shirts and khaki pants. They are a well-groomed pair, and given how nicely mom and dad are put together, it's clear they've been up for hours. Only when the mom turns sideways to speak to her younger son do I realize she's pregnant.
I watch the dynamic between these young parents and their boys. Dad is holding the younger son, who snuggles affectionately with his father. Mom gently "shushes" her older boy and motions for him to sit still. There is near-constant activity in their pew, but it's not distracting, at least not to me. Maybe it's because I know how hard it is to keep children still.
Being Catholic, we're up and down in our seats quite a bit. This is handy for young families like the one I'm watching — usually those transitions are blessedly timed for repositioning the children.
Now, standing between his parents, the 3-year-old reaches up to his mom, but not for her to pick him up. Instead, he rests his tiny hands on her tummy and rubs. He talks to her, but I can't tell what he's saying. I read her lips as she replies, "Yes, it is a nice baby."
Before long, the young father is forced to take the little guy out of church to settle him down. Before he exits the pew, he and his wife exchange a look and smile. I can just imagine that they feel they're experienced — even somewhat expert — at this drill as they await the arrival of a third child.
That's when I turn to my right and smile at Jim. Between us are four children and nearly 21 years and what feels like a million unspoken moments that needed nothing except a knowing glance of experience.
It seems impossible to me that we are no longer the young couple — impossible that the young dad who carried my fussy children to the church vestibule will this week celebrate his 50th birthday. That we are solidly middle-aged isn't so shocking, but for some reason, we're perpetually surprised by the distance we've traveled to get here.
Now the 3-year-old in front of me is getting antsy, and his mom looks tired. As her husband and younger son return to the pew, she exhales a heavy sigh, probably thinking of the long day ahead and maybe contemplating a nap to escape the monotony of diapers and sippy cups and runny noses.
I watch her and wonder how many years it will take until she realizes the days are going way too fast.