My sister-in-law and brother-in-law moved from the Bay to Baltimore this past weekend. For five years, my husband and I have had the luxury of having both of our sisters live short car rides away. It's meant that "keeping in touch" was not a real process and we didn't have to work too hard at it. It's meant that we have all become family in that way that can only occur when there aren't confines of time, occasion, hotel rooms, the pressure to "bond."
My brother in law is a doctor and his (super prestigious) fellowship is taking him to The Wire-town. In my heart of heart of hearts (because I have to dig deep to get beyond the urge to kidnap them), I know this is going to be an amazing experience for these guys. How often do 30-something year olds with an infant get the chance to go on a one year adventure in a new city, to reinvent themselves without the pressure to sink roots? Not that often. And I am so excited for them!
But then there is the fact that our go-to people are leaving and that we have surmounted many hurdles to get to the strong, unbreakable relationship we currently hold. The fact that my memories of my married life are intertwined with my memories of them. The fact that my eldest is semi-cognizant of what is going on. Try explaining "fellowship" to a 3 year old who is struggling to understand that his Bhua isn't going to be ten minutes away anymore, in the cool condo with the awesome fish pond.
"Why can't Bhua and Swaph (yes--he calls my sister-in-law Bhua, but has foregone the analog for her husband...!) stay here mommy?," he said the other day.
"Because Swap has a job in Baltimore, baby," I said.
"We don't need doctors in Berkeley mommy?"
"Well, we do, D, but Swap got a really super amazing fun like running around in the park all day job in Baltimore so they have to go for a while," I said.
D was quiet.
"Hmmm," he said.
D's pregnant pauses, punctuated by "Hmmms" often yielded awesome results. I couldn't wait.
"What D?" I said.
"Bhua can stay here then," he concluded.
This was D's first real goodbye and, at the risk of ascribing sentiments to a toddler that he doesn't really feel--I think this experience has been one of the first times I have seen D sad.
Yesterday, apropos of nothing, D said: "But mommy? If Bhua and Swaph leave that means that they can't eat pizza with us, right?"
What a kid's perspective. It leveled me.
We have eaten pizza in the courtyard of these guys' house countless times, endless evenings around a wood-burning pizza oven during which my sister-in-law concocts delicious, thin crust pizzas, kids run rampant, nights linger. D has been to more of those nights than any other events thus far in his 3 and 1/2 year old life.
"Yup, that's right, D," I said, trying to think of something to make him feel better. What could I say? "But you can tell them how much you've loved getting pizza with them?"
Lame attempt, I know, but I was sad too. It was affecting my cheerleading.
"But I want them to get pizza with us forever for the rest of my life forever," he said (whinily, I have to admit....!)
Me too, I wanted to scream! But Mommy-Protector took over.
"They want to get pizza with you for the rest of your life forever too, D., but for a little while the have to go away."
D got really quiet but it was as if you could hear his freakily absorbant mind churning. It's the most amazing thing to witness this little kid learning about life and love and loss. Figuring things out. Conceptualizing the magical, wonderful world around him. His sense of time is both hilarious and profound because, for him, there is only "yesterday" and "tomorrow." He will say things like "Mommy, remember yesterday when we went to the zoo" when in actuality we went to the zoo 3 months ago. Zen in an odd sort of 3 year old way and just one of the many reasons I wish I could Innerspace myself and live in D's pre-frontal cortex for, like, a day.
But back to the pizza.
"I don't want them to go away mommy," D said. No longer whiny. Just poignantly plaintive.
"I know baby," I said. "How about we have pizza tonight, wouldn't that be fun," I said, all false cheer.
D was quiet.
"Does that sound like a good plan, D?" I said. D loves "plans."
"I don't think so Mommy," he said. I was shocked of course. What kid doesn't want pizza?
"I'm going to wait to have pizza with Bhua and Swaph," D continued. "When they come back home. Tomorrow."