The runway lights sat in their rows, never changing, only witnessing. When she arrived, they offered safety and direction stretching out like open arms, welcoming her home. My arms had to wait while she collected her baggage, but then held her close as I inhaled her scent. My son pulled in 24 hours later and my two younger boys crowed with delight. After nearly two years of different schedules, all of my children were under one roof.
I cleaned and cooked, shopped and baked, preparing for Thanksgiving, while my children talked, laughed and reconnected. Amps, guitars both electric and acoustic, a saxophone and the piano created a cacophony of sound as they entertained each other with their talents. Occasionally a recognizable tune worked its way thru the noise, but I wouldn’t have cared if they took out the pots and pans and banged them. My children were home, together, and each strummed string, each plunked note, each toot of the horn filled the holes in my heart formed by their absence.
My mind became a camera, taking snapshots and videos: the four of them sitting around joking, all of us window shopping, the looks of anticipation on their faces while deciding on which piece of chocolate to buy, and their silly, childlike antics as they played at the toy store even though they’re much too old. Each moment carved a new memory on my heart. I drank them in, their smiles, their smells, their sounds, everything about them. I wanted to capture these memories and store them and pull them out when they go back to their lives.
Years ago I had to learn how to give her up a little bit at a time. Divorce, visitation schedules, holidays spent without her; each of those moments tested my strength and ability to endure. My heart broke each time we spent holidays apart and I longed for the next year. This year I watched as the four of them crossed the street. She held hands and swung arms with her brothers. They were only going to the toy store, but as they walked away, I glimpsed the future. It won’t be long before my boys head out into the world like their sister and these times together will become increasingly rare and precious.
This year I’m scooping up these moments like fallen leaves and putting them into a big pile. I’ve covered them with a tarp to protect them from scattering. When missing them becomes more than I can stand, I want to crawl under the tarp and surround myself with their joy and laughter.
This week flew past, ending much faster than it began. Suitcases crowd the foyer and the noise changed from excited silliness to tense moments filled with unsaid goodbyes. Christmas might only be weeks away, but schedules are different, obligations weigh in, and the calendar promises not to cooperate. I made sure my tarp of memories was secure before I headed off to the airport to let go once again.
My arms held her close, knowing I’d see her in a few weeks, knowing her schedule didn’t accommodate her brothers’, knowing we all wouldn’t be together for Christmas; other parents, other schedules, other obligations. I breathed her in and kissed the top of her head, opening my arms to let her go again. I steeled myself for the pang of loss knowing I’d have to do let go again in just a few hours when her brother headed back to school.
The runway lights waited, sitting in their rows, never changing, only witnessing. Their out stretched arms guiding her away…
but I had Thanksgiving. I had five glorious days with all four of my children at home. I had noise and smells and laughter. I had chaos, disarray, and love. And now I have a tarp filled with memories. I only need to lift the edge back and crawl inside to have Thanksgiving again.
To read more letters, click on The Path!