Here's the thing. My children live far away, one six hours to the west and the other, with his fiance, six hours to the east. We've been together for Thanksgiving week - all of us - hanging out, cooking, touring around DC, running errands and just being -- and being thankful. It's always special when the whole family is together; it seemed so natural when the boys were little and now it's a treat. I cooked a million meals with them banging around in the kitchen. Now it's a precious thing when I make turkey meatloaf with my younger son. I watch him, an accomplished cook, chop like a pro, listen as he reassures me that this new thing will taste great, laugh with him, trade recipes. I rode around in cars, subways, buses with them all the time, and, along with their dad, dragged them into a million stores from grocery to toys to clothing to antiques. Now it's the pleasure of serious shopping at Ikea with my older son and his fiance, getting to be around while they choose a sofa. Seeing what a fine woman she is, watching them seamlessly making decisions together, measuring, taking photos, laughing, planning. It feels great to see them launching themselves so well together and makes it OK that much of their life is lived far from us. That's how it is.
I know though, that when kids are little, schlepping them in and out of car seats and strollers, keeping them occupied while you try to cook, keeping little hands out of the Ikea toy bins, mediating murderous sibling battles, keeping a home running while keeping kids in line - it's a lot. I remember. It doesn't matter whether you work outside your home or stay home with your family; either way there's so much to handle. I kept thinking about that as I wandered around Washington with these adults who are also, forever, my children, reminding myself how long it would be before we would all do it together again. Reminding myself that it's a credit to us that our kids are self-sufficient, productive and wonderfully decent, funny, loving men -- and how blessed we are that they chose to come to us for the holiday -- and that it's right, and good, that they have their own lives and homes and futures.
But though that's true, I wanted to tell you about this because it goes so fast. All the cliches are true. Turn around and they're grown. That doesn't mean it isn't hard to keep things going now, it just means that those days will be gone, sooner than you think.
My youngest is approaching 30. My oldest is getting married. They have money market accounts and careers and fiances and plans and even some gray hairs. They teach me more than I teach them (although that was always true.) They are, like those of you reading this, grown ups, and my husband and I have our own rich and happy life together. But it still can be, for those few moments of farewell at the end of each visit, desperately painful, on both sides.
As we drove to the airport last night, I (sort of) joked that I had to hook my iPod up to the car radio so that, when I was sad after leaving them off, I could blast Bruce, or Great Big Sea to make me feel a little better. When we arrived at the departure entrance, I got out of the car to help unload the bags. My son the chef was still in the front seat of the car. I was worried that a cop would throw me out of the parking place so I went toward the door to ask what he was doing. He turned around. "You iPod's all hooked up" he said, and reached out to give me a hug goodbye.