When I packed for the cross country drive that would haul me from Texas, the only place I’d ever lived, to Syracuse, New York, my mother joked with me (a hint of begging in her voice), “Micha, please don’t date a northern boy.” My reply was in all seriousness, “Mom, why would I want to date a boy from New York?” I honestly couldn’t imagine that a boy who didn’t add ma’am or sir after his yeses or hadn’t been taught to hold open the door for every girl in the room or, horror of horrors, talked with a snobby accent, would have anything to offer my simple, West Texas self. But I could see the fear in the Mom’s eyes.
It only took me three months to meet Chris. I was engaged to him a year and a half later. I finished my third year of graduate school married. To a Yankee.
For a while I believed my mother’s fear had stemmed from a fear of losing me and we both grieved the loss of it. In my family, my hometown, my culture, people don’t leave their families. It just doesn’t make sense to. Why leave the only home your family has known for generations? Why leave Texas? Why not live nearby and eat Sunday lunches together? And, for the most part, my friends in Texas, whom I have to admit, I’m really jealous of, were able to pursue their dreams by moving to Dallas or Austin, driving distance from home. No harm done.
Every time I leave my parents at the airport security line, we all cry. It’s not that I haven’t chosen this life; I have. I love where I have lived. And it’s not like I’ve blindly followed Chris wherever he’s gone. We’ve lived where our opportunities have been. And we’ve made our decisions together. But I miss my family. I always miss my family.
When August was born, my parents stayed for two weeks in our home, rocking him to sleep in the middle of the night, stocking our shelves with groceries and holding him while I took afternoon naps.
Then, they left. I dropped them off at the airport, my two week old strapped into the back seat, and I wept uncontrollably all the way home. Then I took my baby and we laid down on the bed together where he slept and I cried until I slept.
Yesterday, my baby was a two year old, in the same back seat, at a different airport. When I pulled up to the curb, my mom whispered goodbye to him, the ending of weekend of new toys and the endless reading of books, the carving of pumpkins and pumpkin inspired crafts, late night grandparent snugglefests and made up stories from my dad. August looked at her confused. Why would she be leaving him? After just one weekend? My dad leaned over beside the door, whispered something to him, and I heard my son scream, “NOOOOOOOO!”
“No, Pops! Don’t go. DON’T GOOOOOO!”
Big tears rolled down his face. He was red and puffy and angry. My mom and dad tried to hug me, their eyes filled up, while their grandson screamed in both disbelief and shock. He couldn’t believe they were doing this to him.
He screamed “No!” for the next thirty minutes as I drove from the Oakland airport back to San Francisco. Every once in while I tried to explain, “JoJo and Pops have to go home. They have to go to work. And see Lucy [the dog], and your cousins.”
I tried the distraction technique. Look! Choochoo trians. And Cranes! My son’s reply. “I don’t like ANYTHING!” (Talk about two year old angst.) So, I did what I could, I cried along with him. I walked with him into our apartment, snuggled up beside him on the couch, and turned on a soul healing episode of The Wonder Pets, after which we both (mostly) felt better.
It’s Thankful Tuesday. And the thing is: I’m so grateful my boy loves his grandparents. I’m grateful that even though he sees them rarely, as soon as he saw them last Thursday, he hugged them with his head on their shoulders for as long as it took for their bags to arrive in the baggage claim.
I’m thankful that they continue to shell out the money for airplane flights and do everything possible to be a vital part of August’s life. However, I can’t help but feel the guilt of my choices on a day like yesterday, as I drove my sobbing boy home from the airport. Sometimes, kids just need more family than a mom and dad. I can’t help but wonder if that’s what my mother meant on the summer day when we packed the UHaul and she asked me to try not to fall in love. With a boy. With another culture, another part of the country, another kind of people.