Sunday, 21 December 2014

away for the holidays . . . distance between families Part 2.

As I type this, I have yet to hear from one of my three children asked to give their perspective of what it has been like to be separated by so many miles. (read the intro to this series here)

We'll start with hearing from Rachel, almost 27, my first born.  

Having already gone through the process of our parents divorcing, and one remarrying someone who already had several children of their own-- I would say my brothers and I were already well-versed in transitions.  Though it was initially a shock and sad to think I couldn't just swing by to see my family on a whim-- or even on the holidays, we have all adapted well. My daughter, who just turned one, has already had 3 long visits from her Nana, and one could argue she has been able to squeeze in as much quality time as any other family member (if not more.)  One of the good things for me that has happened (besides of course an amazing place I know I can go visit) is the example of a parent who has chosen to live her life more deliberately than most, even when that includes making tough choices and sacrifices.  It's definitely influenced the choices I make in my own life for the better and I think it will continue to do so.

Honestly, I did hold my breath opening Rachel's prompt response.  

Being the oldest and a female and being at a fragile age when her father and I split, I have always seen Rachel as being the most introspective and analytical about our family situation.  

As time goes by, the mother-daughter connection becomes undeniable.  I've been fortunate enough to experience this with my own mother and the birth of Rachel and Eric's baby confirmed how much we can be telepathically tuned to each other.

Her due date was Tuesday, November 26, 2013.  I was set to land, from New Zealand, in Chicago late on Friday, November 29th.  

Just after my arrival in Chicago (staying at my best friend's over night), Rachel and I started exchanging phone calls because in her words, "something's different."  

Hence started a series of phone calls that went all throughout the night, as she allowed her husband to sleep and giving me the opportunity to coach my daughter through the terrain of early labour (how lucky was I???) 

And more times than not, I woke up thinking about her seconds before a text would come or the phone would ring.  Uncanny.

Her brother, Luke, and I boarded the 8:30 am train to Springfield, Illinois-- as planned. However what wasn't anticipated when I booked my tickets was the instruction to be dropped off, ALONE, at the hospital upon our arrival.  

Keegan, my youngest of the three, picked us up at the train station and I arrived at the hospital as active labour was kicking in and, hours later, was blessed to be present for the joyous birth of our sweetheart, Bernadette.

Today as I tried to decorate a funky small Christmas tree to add a festive flair to our home to welcome my husband's family for a holiday visit, I had an epiphany.  

Putting up the decorations I could locate, I came upon those that held the history of holidays past, when my three children were small.  

With our Pandora set playing retro Christmas music in the background I became teary as I was hanging decorations on the tiny tree.  

Then I stopped to think about where those tears were coming from.

First and foremost, they were coming from the fact that I wouldn't be having this experience of decorating a tree with my one year old granddaughter, which quickly led me to checking out that I was also really missing having that experience with my older three when they were small.

We always made a big deal of decorating the tree, playing music, exploring all of the ornaments, visiting the lighted neighbourhoods, Christmas eve service, family celebrations-- all of everything that was Christmas. 

And it hit me.

Yes, I miss my kids.  Big. Time.

But my "kids" are now adults.  With lives of their own.

Those tears were me waxing nostalgic of the amazing holiday times we did have together.

And I was also fantasising that if I was "home" I would be reliving that experience with my dear Bernadette.  

In reality?

How lucky am I that I had/have such awesome adult children that the memories of holidays and special times of the year can bring an ache for what was . . .  

But then I must remind myself that I have all that is left of those times: precious memories (and some great ornaments and photos), and most importantly, a loving relationship with my three adult children.

And I do have a ten year old at home that needs my attention.  Now.

And my granddaughter?  

She's making amazing memories with her wonderful, loving parents who need to be the people she is with when she decorates her first tree.

As it should be.

Smiling at Nana.
Fortunately, this beauty knows me well enough to continue to give me this smile via FaceTime. Yay internet!!! (which begs me to state-- I could not do this distance from family without the current ease of telephone and internet access)

Rachel Otwell is a reporter with WUIS, Springfield, Illinois--a National Public Radio affiliate.  You can find her work HERE.
a place set and waiting . . .

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