I watched the hallway fill up for the second time in a week, with suitcases, backpacks, and more; saw the boxes go to the attic and the bags of cast-off clothes to the garage for later drop off at Goodwill; peered into two bedrooms that seemed very empty.
The road trip was long - two full days of travel to Minneapolis. But when we got there, I remembered why I love that city. Parks and lakes, Somali women in long dresses, Native American influences, Thai food, Maria's, Bethlehem. The city holds special memories and dear friends....
...especially, this dear one! It is a rare gift to have a friend who opens her home, fills the fridge with food she knows you like, puts fruit and flowers in the guest room and a chocolate on each pillow, stays up late to talk and talk and talk, includes you in a dinner and movie evening she had planned with a friend, goes to three grocery stores to buy eggs for French toast, gives you a jar of her parent's maple syrup, and then, best of all, offers to be an aunt to the son you're leaving behind in the city a two days drive away. Amanda, you're the best. Thank you is quite insufficient.
After a last grocery store run with me (jello, pickles, Arizona tea, and Yorkshire Gold!), and a father/son stroll around the lake with Coty, it was time to take Matthew back to his apartment and begin our long drive home. We hugged on his doorstep and said our good-byes.
If you know my husband, you know the quavering voice, the long pauses, the sip of water and clearing of the throat that mean he is choking up with emotion and fighting tears. When we pulled away from the curb and turned the corner to Columbus Avenue, I looked over and saw that the fight was lost. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as his hands gripped the steering wheel and his shoulders shook.
He told me then about a moment earlier when he and Matthew were sitting on a bench by the lake, a moment when no one walked by, the breeze stopped, the geese were silent, and the grasses at the water's edge barely stirred. It was a moment, he said, when nothing seemed to change. And then it was over.
"Did you want to freeze that moment?" I asked.
And I thought, well, yes. Sometimes I do want to freeze time. I don't want any more changes. I want to stop my children from growing up any more and keep them, just as they are, close and happy and healthy and here.
I want piano music and a work apron draped over the kitchen stool. I want the sounds of footsteps through the garage and the bang of the backdoor flying open and hitting the open laundry closet door. I want a familiar arm across my shoulder.
But more than that, I want Matthew and each of my children to become all that God intends for them to be, which, of course, means growing up and stepping out and saying good-bye for a time and making new starts. And so, back home, I pray for grace in the changes, grace to learn new ways to love, and creativity in new ways to mother.
I give thanks...again and again and again...for the undeserved gifts that my children are - to me and increasingly these days, to so many others. When I feel their absence, that indeed, is sweet consolation.