When I was a teenager growing up in a small town in Canada my only thought was to escape. I was going to leave this place behind. I was going to go to exciting places, I was going to accomplish interesting and important things and I was going to show them all that I was special, and different. So I was basically like every other teenager out there in that respect.
When I couldn’t escape physically I did mentally through books, reinforcing the castles my imagination built of what my life would be.
I went some places, did a few things, though not as far as I hoped to. So it was a bonus that the man I married had a hearty dislike of the Canadian cold and loved to travel. We were going to go places together and do things. With hardly a backward glance I bid my family and friends farewell and left my hometown for good, a visit or two notwithstanding.
We’ve still not been all that far together. But then we had kids, and as they grew so did our desire to have them know a larger family than just the two of us. When Aaron finished school we decided to move closer to extended family. His was in California, mine in the middle of rural Alberta. Between the economy at that time, and the climate, and some other factors sprinkled here or there, we are now Californians and our kids know all about sunscreen and think mittens are novelty items that you wear only for that one time a year you go to an indoor skating arena to teeter around on the pockmarked ice.
We’re still working toward moving to Thailand, more or less permanently, when our presence there is of more value to the people we are helping than it is here.
Yet, last week I bought a plane ticket. I am going home for Christmas. Back to the town I grew up in and the people I left behind.
When I was young I never thought my choices would lead me to the life I have. I didn’t expect to be a stay at home mom and live an essentially domestic life. But that is where my heart has led me and it’s a good place to be.
What is hard is doing this so far away from my family.
My brother and sister both had baby girls last year, nieces whom I have never met. My kids have cousins they don’t know, and aren’t likely to ever get to know very well given the distance.
I listen to the soundbites of their lives on the other end of the phone and wish they were close enough to drop by for dinner, that my sister could hang out in my kitchen with me while our kids played, and vice versa. I wish I knew my siblings better, and their spouses, who they met after I left. Social media is great, but it’s no substitute for the kind of getting to know you conversation that takes place in the same room over tea or a meal.
My grandparents are getting on. I come from hardy stock, but the decade between 90-100 is pushing it. I don’t want to pay to fly up for a funeral and wish I had spent the money on at least one more visit instead.
My mom is having surgery and will be still in the hospital Christmas day.
There are so many friends still there.
There are cousins who were toddlers still when I left home that are now facebook friends. I have no idea who these giant adult strangers are. I baby sat the guy with a house and a girlfriend trying to sell his car. I rubbed the baby backs of boys who are now men. I made teeny tiny dolly beds for girls who are now having babies of their own. They don’t know me any more, and I don’t know them.
I love Aaron’s family. It is such a blessing to have them close. The hours we spend with them and the once a week sleepovers are good and my kids are getting a rich heritage this way.
But I miss my family. More than I ever expected to, honestly.
As I was telling all this to Aaron last week he told me to look up plane tickets, and to act like I was going to buy one. He told me to go for Christmas, which is when they entire huge clan gets together to celebrate. (Grandpa rents a church hall for the day now. We outgrew the addition he put on their house when I was little.)
So I am taking Jellybean and going home and it kills me. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to a break and to seeing everyone. I am leaving my 3 older kids behind.
|outtakes from a family photo session for my grandparents|
(Have you seen the price of plane tickets these days? Yikes!) I will meet my nieces, but they won’t meet their big cousins. My kids still won’t know the people I talk about in photos. They will be without me for 6 days. I know their Beema and aunts and uncles and Aaron will take care of them and they will have fun, but it sucks to be apart from them.
There is no way to reconcile these two parts of my life right now. No way to bridge the distance and close up all the gaps. This ticket feels like such a temporary solution that I almost didn’t bother buying it. My mouse hovered over the checkout button for a long time while I debated with myself.
But I need to go. It’s important. So I am going. It’s the best I can do right now.