Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Absence Reminds the Heart

My toothbrush sank into the porcelain bathroom cup, its base barely touching my husband's blue one. If objects could talk, those around would hear an audible sigh as both rested together, inhaling the comforting familiarity in the other's scent.

Absence can be a good thing.

Time apart from loved ones makes the heart grow more tender, even if that same person were making me roll my eyes in frustration when I last saw him. Eight days later, that same person greets me with freshly washed sheets, pork loin in the oven and broccoli cheddar soup on the stove. The time apart has reminded us of the others' best.

Yesterday, my parents, children and I returned home from 2200 mile round trip driving marathon from Louisiana to Washington D.C., four days' driving for a simple, four-day visit with my brother and his wife.

Honestly, it was much better than this Chicken Little mother expected. No roadside stops for children who couldn't wait for the next restroom. No incessant, "Are we there YET!?" No wailing fits about wanting to go home.

Before we left last Tuesday, I had told my brother and his wife a few things I wanted to see while in D.C.--like dinosaur bones at the National History Museum, bites of deliciousness at Georgetown Cupcake (yes, worth the hassle!), and Mount Vernon. They did all the rest...and it was unexpectedly pleasant.

Typically, when I plan a vacation, I'm borderline psychotic, spending weeks with papers spread across the living room floor, highlighting the Fodor's Guide, and reading online reviews and hours of operation/cost updates. Then, there's the infamous daily spreadsheets with every activity, sometimes down to the hours allotted per activity. And finally, I put numbers on a map of where we're headed, each number corresponding to an activity on the daily spreadsheet, corresponding public transportation stops labelled.

With me, the woman who doesn't want to miss seeing anything but who is terrified of getting lost, this is just my pattern. My husband would tell you our trips are not mere times of relaxation. A trip is a mission--to see a location or to see family.

This time? I planned nothing save how to fit eight days' worth of clothes for four people in one suitcase and how to arrive with three live, happy children and my sanity still intact. Each day, I followed the plan set out for me, ate where and what was on the menu, took the passenger seat versus the comfortable driver's role.I loved and laughed and enjoyed time with family whom I only get to see a couple times a year. Even with weekly Skype sessions, our physical absence from beloved Uncle and Aunt, son and daughter, brother and sister--it makes our hearts long for visits such as this one.

We still had one day left remaining in our trip when my oldest came up to me and said, "I'm going to miss Uncle Johnathan when we go home." The twins parroted the same refrain about Aunt Liza.

"That's a good thing," I said, trying not to choke on my own emotions. "If you didn't love them, you wouldn't miss them." Wyatt shook his head. Later, I heard him parroting those same words; even at almost five, he understands the connection between loving and heartache.Yes, we will miss them. We already do. But when the longing grows too great, we will all pile in the van again and drive cross country to where our heart lies...with our family.

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