So where did I go? Well, most of it is uninteresting - for instance, first I got sick. Just a cold, the same stupid cold that has been relentlessly crawling through the family for the last month. I was the last to fall under its wheels. Here's a completely new and interesting observation: when you are the mom AND the sick person, there is no mom to take care of you. Also, the laundry doesn't stop.
And after the sickness, it was suddenly time to pack and go on a trip we'd been planning for weeks and weeks. Right up until a day or two before it was time to leave, I was all calm and casual about it, oh no problem, we'll get it done, I'm borrowing a few suitcases from my parents.
And then? 24 hours before? That's when the reality of it smacked me between the eyes, and I started spinning around the house frantically, clutching to my chest every item I could imagine we might need in the next two weeks.
We are a family of seven. We cannot pack every item we could possible need.
Besides, we were gathering up to go to Clay's parent's house, not into the wilds of...someplace wild. We would be okay.
And now here we are, all of us. Even Jennie took two weeks off of the beginning of her senior year to come out here to Washington state, where the greens are greener and the sun is fickle. Clay's parents live on an island in the Columbia river, and his brother Doug and his wife Jill live next door. It's like one big family compound, except not in the strange hair and polygamy way.
Every morning the boys tumble out the back door and down to the river, like so many sandy puppies. Connie (Clay's mom) holds and loves on Sophia, and Jennie drifts in from next door by late morning, lovely and sleepy. Larry, Clay's dad, had chemo last week, so he rests when he needs to, and Clay bounds back and forth between us all. Another of Clay's brothers, Dan, is staying with Connie and Larry right now, and I'm afraid that he and Raphael are kindred spirits. It's a little scary.
I watch them all, and marvel. I love Clay's family. I mean, I REALLY love Clay's family. It's not just because they are the bright and shiny GOOD to balance out a world that contains my former in-laws. No, that would be enough, if that was all. But they're also kind and funny and...just happy.
They are the happy family. You knew there had to be one, right? It's this one. They like each other and they treat each other well.
Somehow I lucked out and married into the happy family.
I so, so want my family to grow up to be like this one. I want my kids to want to come back and see me. I want us all to care about what is happening in each other's lives, but not feel the need to manipulate it all. I want my grown children to light up when they cross my threshold, because they are stepping back into a familiar love. I want to hold my grandbabies someday and marinate in their drool-spangled smiles.
Today my parents, back in Colorado, sold their house. It was the house they bought to shelter the boys and me when our lives were turned upside down. The six of us lived there for almost four years, and when the boys and I left to make our life with Clay, it was too big for the two of them.
And so, finally, they are done with it. Someone else calls it home, the house we called The Promised Land.
I'm glad for my parents, that they were able to finally get out from under the burden of that house in this market. I'm glad they have their own, sun-filled house that fits them.
And yet I find myself remembering those rooms that sheltered us with a pang. It was not perfect, but it was good.
With apologies to Tolstoy
, I have to believe that although happiness is a moving target, it is one that can be hit. On the banks of the Colombia or in the shadow of the Rockies, there is happiness to be had.
I know. I've seen it.