I am one of the lucky few who, as an adult, gets to live close to their parents. Five minutes away, to be exact. And despite some occasional inward eye-rolling about how I “never got out” of my hometown, in truth, it’s been fabulous. As a child, I loved my parents. As an adult, I’ve learned that I like them a whole lot as well. They are fun and funny, energetic and intelligent, and crazy generous in helping me raise my own little brood. And their house, though different than the one I grew up in, still feels like utterly, deliciously like home. It has our family’s look, our family’s vibe and, most importantly, our family’s smell. (Don’t worry; it’s a good smell.) (I think.)
We headed over there a few days ago to kick off Easter week with a bit ‘o egg dying. I grabbed a shapshot of the Fam, minus me. (Intentional. Moms over 40 understand.)
Aren’t my parents gorgeous? I’m told I look like my dad and rock my mom’s attitude. (No offense, Dad. Or Mom. Or anyone I’ve rocked with my ‘tude.)
Looking at this photo choked me up a bit. See, my parents are leaving in a few months to serve a mission for our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (Did I tell you I was a Mormon? Yeah, pretty sure I’ve mentioned it. How could I not? It’s so fun.) We don’t know where they’ll be going yet—that’s part of the Big Big Excitement—but I put in an early request for Rome. (How else am I ever going to vacation there, unless under the guise of visiting my saintly parents on their saintly mission?) Granted, my request was made to no one in particular and bears absolutely no weight, but I figure if my parents are doing something this saintly, the angels must be on my side. I don’t ask for much, do I? Tossing me a little Rome now and then wouldn’t kill anyone.
They’ve been planning it for ages and our whole family’s excited about it, but still. But still. They’ll be gone for eighteen months, with no visits home. That’s eighteen months that my kids won’t sleep over on a Friday night and wake up to Grandpa’s pancakes and Grandma’s “projects.” Her last one had them painting and decorating the bonus room (i.e., the Cousins’ Lair.) They did a beautiful job. I cannot get my children to make their own beds, let alone paint an entire wing of the house. Just one more proof in a long line of evidence that they Like Her Better Than Me.
It’s eighteen months without Friday nights of cards and popcorn, Saturday afternoons of pizza and the Big Game (take your pick of which game; they watch them all), Sunday evenings of family dinners and walks around the neighborhood. It’s eighteen months without my Mom picking up my kids from school when I’m in a jam; it’s eighteen months without my dad lending Derrick his nice, new truck when Derrick’s in a jam. (Maybe he’d consider leaving it with us? I’m just saying.) It’s eighteen months without standing in their kitchen, chatting about church and the kids and the weather and the fate of the nation over a pan of Grandma’s latest to-die-for dessert. (Grandma’s taken baking by storm this year. She is, to the dismay of my my skinny jeans, very good at it.)
For my children, it’s eighteen months without a trip to Circle K with Grandma; it’s eighteen months without a trip to Home Depot with Grandpa. It’s eighteen months without a hug from either of them. It’s eighteen months without meeting their favorite people–their cousins, naturally–at their favorite destination–Grandma’s house, naturally. Here is where they live, as my husband puts it, their Second Life. Here is where they work in the garage and do science experiments with Grandpa; here is where they cook and sing and dance with Grandma. Here is where there are no chores, no rules, and best of all, no parents. Here is where there is acceptance and encouragement and love. Here, at Grandma’s house, is where my kids have found heaven on earth. And so have we all.
Eighteen months is really not that long–unless you’re missing somebody terribly. Then, I’m afraid, it will seem like a very long time indeed.
And so this Easter Sunday, I am determined to swallow the lump in my throat and stop thinking about how much I’ll miss my parents next Easter and remember, instead, how lucky I am to have them to miss. And while I’ll remember the lofty and majestic doctrines of Easter, I’ll also remember that those doctrines exist, ultimately, to support the simple and intimate doctrines of the family. Easter is not a remote, religious holiday; Easter is about my parents, my family, my life, here and now. Easter happened so we could live again—not just with our Father in Heaven, but with our families—eternally. Think of it. Compared with our ultimate destiny as children of God—as members of a forever family—what is eighteen months?
Not too long at all.