What was more comforting as a child than to run into your aunts and uncles all over town, to walk to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinners, and to have a playground full of cousins at school? Remember those days? I don’t either. I didn’t grow up near family. Neither did my children…nor are theirs. In the case of my parents, the military first brought them from the area in which they both grew up. They returned many years later but purchased their first home over two hours away. Each subsequent home purchase was at least that far.
My siblings and I went to colleges in different states. Only one of us ever lived with our parents (sporadically) after that. Two remained out of state after graduation. I am lucky now to be living in between the area in the north where my father and my sister’s family live and the south where my mother and my brother’s family live. Any time they travel to see each other, my husband and I provide dinner and a guest room to split up their 13-15 hour drive.
We raised our children in a state with excellent state universities so our children all went to in-state schools, although they lived on campus. Now in their twenties, one lives with us, and the other two have their own families. One is across the country, the other lives in our state but about four hours north of us. Sunday dinner is not a thing. Now that we are thinking about our not-nearly-close-enough approaching retirement, we too are looking to leave the suburban city we’ve lived in for most of the past 29 years and find a place where all of the children and grandchildren will want to visit. Will proximity to family be an option? I hope so, but probably not, although any of the children and grands will always be welcome to live with us should they ever want or need to.
As things are, and will probably remain, we have to make an effort to see each other. I may only see my son-in-love, daughter and granddaughter four times per year but when I am there I am ALL theirs for days at a time. We plan fun things and make great memories. I see my son, daughter-in-love, and granddaughter upstate more frequently but for shorter times. I will spend two weeks before returning to school taking care of her three-month-old self while her parents are at work, and I can’t wait. My mother will make the eight hour drive to my house earlier in the first week and them accompany me the additional four to meet her newest great-granddaughter. My daughter and her husband went to visit my husband’s father in Colorado while they passed through and he got to spend a day with his first great-grandchild.
Family weddings, and even funerals are more poignant and meaningful because so many of us come from far and wide to be there for each other. Those too far or otherwise unable to make the trip are asked after and thought of fondly. Pictures are taken and shared with all. Memories are made and bonds are strengthened. We don’t have family arguments, none of us has ever stopped speaking to another, and even physically removed, we share each others joys and sorrows.
Would I trade this to have my mom and dad living nearby, my siblings and their children in the same town with us, and my kids raising their kids within walking distance of my house? Would I trade it for Sunday dinner? Of course I would. I longed for that kind of belonging as a child and would have loved to have provided it for my children. Life, however, has other plans and blessings for my family and many others. Wherever we are, wherever they are, our door will always be open, our hearts will always be welcoming, and our passports will always be up to date.