The perfect family stood in line waiting to select their bagels. Two parents — the expected mom and dad — and three adult children out for Sunday breakfast. The attractive eldest stretched to at least 6’4″ if you measured to the tip of his glossy black hairstyle: spiked enough to be stylish, but not so much as to be inappropriate for one closer to 30 than 20. The daughter’s lithe body, draped in a dark red lace shawl, clicked past me on sensible-heeled above-the-knee boots on her way to the restroom. Her face was beautifully sculpted, framed by the sleek black hair, but she kept her eyes lowered as she excused herself while slipping past me.
“Check this out,” the oldest held out a smart phone and bent over his smaller brother. Glasses slightly askew the third child moved with less grace than his siblings, or others in line. His face, his glasses, and his demeanor conveyed an extra chromosome or perhaps an abnormality in one. The third child belatedly smiled at the phone and the mother beamed as her eldest protected her most vulnerable.
The father, had he been straight, would have neared the height of his son. Stooped as he was, the top of his head reached the same height as the mother. Trying to make sure her family didn’t cause an inconvenience, the mother directed her sons to the menu ensuring their orders would be ready the moment they reached the front of the line. She was a strong looking woman, not lithe like her daughter, but fit and powerful: the backbone of her perfect family.
“Let’s check it out,” the older brother motioned to the menu and his brother’s gaze slowly followed.
The daughter breezed back from urinating, or fixing her hair, or her pre-breakfast bulimic purge. Upon arriving back she closely conferred with her mother, who left for her own bathroom ritual. Catching me watching her family she smiled an eye crinkling smile at me, which I returned. Her joy at having her family together was genuine.
His wife gone, the father took on the shepherding of his family. They stood closer together than a normal family of adults might, always keeping the third child toward the center as if protecting him from outsiders. The daughter’s shawl provided a physical barrier to her brother as she placed her hand on his rounded shoulders. The moment it was time to order they efficiently stepped up one by one and succinctly selected their bagels. Returning, the mother walked directly to the cashier confident her order would be accurately conveyed by her daughter. While waiting to pay, the mother surveyed the tables for one that would seat her family of five.
The only mishap was when the youngest son and father approached the drink cooler. Apparently drinks had not been accounted for during their in-line planning, so they had to backtrack. I stepped back to give them access to the cooler. The son reached for a bottle of orange juice and mistakenly grabbed orange mango instead. “That’s orange mango,” the father corrected, “or do you want to try something new?”
“I’ll check it out,” replied the third child echoing the sentiments of his majestic older brother. His speech was deliberate.
The father paused reaching toward the traditional orange juice, but changed his mind at the last minute veering toward orange mango. “I’ll check it out too.” He nodded my direction in acknowledgement of the minor inconvenience he and his son had caused during their drink selection.
My order placed, paid for, and received, I walked to the soda dispenser. The family had settled at a high top table with four seats nearby, father opting to stand rather than take a seat from another table. They were not a family to take more than the appropriate allotment of chairs. As I turned to go, I heard one of the family’s men utter, “…check it out,” and I wondered at what point did that repetitive phrase break the sister’s or mother’s perfect facade. I knew I would break, but their life was not mine. Perhaps the phrase was their own security blanket. One that conveyed their belief in open-mindedness, curiosity, and willingness to make the best of what life had to offer.