The Way Things Change

I feel a little more sane since my last post. Part of that was the therapy of writing about it, part of it the amazing and heartfelt comments, and a lot of it is the fact that this week is spring break. For me, this is a week to actually pull my weight around the house. I can clean. I can cook. I can check things off of my mile-long to-do list. I can meet my husband for lunch, and after dinner we can have a conversation without a half-graded stack of papers between us. It’s not exactly a relaxing week, even when I drop Maggie off at daycare for a few hours, but sometimes a sense of accomplishment is so much more satisfying. (Though I have to admit, I’ll be disappointed if I can’t fit a pedicure in somewhere.)

However, this post isn’t meant to be about spring break. It’s supposed to be about family- not the one I’ve chosen to build with Matt, Maggie, and the new baby, but the one I didn’t choose- the one I was born into. You see, this past weekend we took a quick trip to see my sisters, brother-in-law, and nephew in Brooklyn. My parents also arranged to drive down from upstate New York, so we were all together again- seven adults and two children happy and cozy in a 900 (or so) square-foot apartment.

Cousin bath time!
(Taking advantage while it lasts)
These get-togethers are becoming more and more precious. In fact, with a ten to thirteen-hour drive between us, we are lucky to see each other as often as we do. It helps that my sisters, father and I are all educators, so we can count on regular breaks for travel time. But even as having children makes it more difficult to make the trip, it also makes it that much more important for Maggie to see and get to know her family.

There’s a song by The Head and the Heart called “Rivers and Roads”, and one of the lyrics has really been hitting me lately. It says: “Been talkin’ bout the way things change/My family lives in a different state.” I grew up within twenty miles of both sets of grandparents and the vast majority of my 8,000 cousins (a slight exaggeration…it could be more like 6,732). My husband had a totally different experience. His parents met in college and chose to settle down in Illinois because it was a mid-point between their two families, who were located in Iowa and Indiana. Because he knew what it was like growing up with no family nearby, we thought quite a bit about where to set up a home and raise a family. As much as we loved St. Louis, where we met, it simply wasn’t an option. Family was the number one priority, so it was decided: we were going to upstate New York or following his parents to South Carolina, where they had built a house and would retire. When we found out that Matt’s dental license transferred to South Carolina with no additional tests or residencies, that was it. We were moving south.

I feel confident that we made the right decision. Everything has fallen into place here in Anderson. We are about a 35-minute drive from both Matt’s parents and his sister, who moved here last year to be closer to us. That means built-in babysitters (not a privilege to be abused, for sure) and family holidays that we don’t need to pack for. Matt’s dental practice couldn’t have been a better fit, and he has quickly become a familiar name around town because of his involvement in church, Rotary, and numerous other volunteer organizations. I FINALLY got a teaching job close to home, at an amazing arts magnet school. We love our house, our neighborhood, and our church, where we have made many friends that we will have for life.

Rare time with two grandmas

There’s only one thing missing, and that is my dear family. It doesn’t matter that I’ll be turning thirty this year, or that I have my own family now. I want my parents to be close enough to drop in just because (but not so close that they’ll never leave…) and for Maggie to be able to call her cousin Howie to come over for a swim. I want to have a glass of wine with my sisters on the back porch while the kids chase fireflies. It’s a selfish desire, because while I want Maggie and Baby #2 to be surrounded by all that love and joy, I know that they already are. They have one set of grandparents, a doting aunt, and their mommy and
daddy, who clearly worship them, right here at their fingertips. Plus, at two and a half, it’s impressive how well Maggie already knows her “New York” family. We Google Chat and Face Time frequently, and she loves looking at pictures from the holidays and trips we have taken together.

My mom is just barely holding
it together before she has to
get in the car and leave.
Whether we are reverting to our childhood selves back at my parents’ house, walking the kids to the park in Brooklyn, watching Maggie and Howie dance around my living room, or catching up on the phone for five minutes in between school, subways, and daycare pickup, my family makes me feel a little bit more like myself. (A side note: I also have them to thank for my husband’s sudden change of heart about how many kids to have. Apparently, he likes how chaotic my family is wants to replicate that in our household. Good luck to future us, and stay tuned for how Baby #2 changes that opinion!) I guess all I can do is keep badgering my parents about moving down here for retirement and sending my sisters pictures of what their rent/mortgage could get them in South Carolina. Besides, who needs New York City culture when you can have Sonic and Chick-fil-a?

5 thoughts on “The Way Things Change

  1. Beth Dunn says:

    This was heart-warming. I feel the same way – I love having Meghan here in Brooklyn with us, and both sets of grandparents a (relatively) reasonable car ride away, but I miss you. Every time we are together, and I realize how well we've come to get along as adult women, it hurts that much more when you leave. The distance does make the time that we get to spend that much sweeter, but man is it hard. I am happy that we've made a commitment to spending a week every summer and at least one of the holidays in the fall/winter together, and I really appreciate that we share the burden of making the travel to see each other. Thank you for coming to see us, and for making the distance seem less far.


  2. Berni says:

    Heartwarming but I'm close to losing it here….I remember my mom and how she always had someone stopping over. I wish I had you all closer!!! But that's not how life played out for all of us and I cherish the fact that we all want to prioritize the times we can get together. I thank God everyday for my girls and those sweet little ones and for my sons-in-laws too. I know Dad feels the same. So you better believe we'll continue to get together and to build all those memories that will last a lifetime. All my love, Mom


  3. Lindsey says:

    I have loved reading every one of your posts and always look forward to the next. This one in particular has hit me pretty hard…one of those overly emotional “mom” days. I can understand how you feel when you say “it's a selfish desire,” to have all that family love around your children. I battle constantly with being in Oneonta and not having any family or close friends right here. There is something comforting about having the people around you who know you better than anyone else…especially when you are raising children. I know we have talked about this many times before but, it is very difficult to deeply connect with people that you meet after college. We have a couple next door to us who have a little girl who is one year younger than Sydney. We spend quite a bit of time together as they don't have any family in the area either. And it's funny because even though they are great people and wonderful friends, we still don't have that certain level of comfort that you have in a friendship of say 25 years! (WE ARE OLD…25 years!) Even though we don't talk NEARLY as much as I would like, I am so thankful that we can always pick up where we left off…if we can remember where that was?! Hopefully as our children grow a little older we will slowly regain a bit of that time to chat more often and maybe someday actually find a good halfway meeting place.
    I can't speak for everyone but your posts are therapeutic for me, too! Nothing like knowing there are other people in the same boat as you.


  4. KimMahaney says:

    This one really hit a special spot with me! Both of our parents are a drive but too far for an afternoon. It is so hard to be a mom, a wife and a women and there are so many times when I wish even if just for a day I could fold up the map and push/ pull all my loved ones right next to me. I could have coffee with one, lunch with another and finish with white wine and popcorn with my mom all while some how keeping the house, playing with the perfect children and looking stunning! Cheers, love the blog and thanks for sharing.


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