We had an impromptu visit (if you call two week notice, impromptu) from my parents this past weekend. It was wonderful! They just left this morning and I miss them already. This whole living-604-miles-(or-a-shorter-mileage-but-longer-drive-of-569-miles)-away-from-them really blows. Of course, it has never been something that I enjoyed, but it was something that I lived through because of E. While living on the East Coast and living more than 1,000+ miles away was even farther, it was a cooler place to visit -- so I knew that we would have more friends & family stop on through for summer vacations. Who wants to vacation in Cleveland? Anyone? Anyone? (Didn't think so...)
When E found out that he got a job at the Clinic, I was ecstatic! The thought of living almost half as close to home was so tantalizing. With all the interviews that he had went on, Cleveland was the closest to home. And our yearly Christmas drive was cut from 16 hours to a measly 9.5 hours. Despite the fact that I had done a couple of the Iowa-Jersey drives by myself with dogs in tow, they were really difficult to do. And we had gotten pretty lucky on our holiday drives to not have been surprised by dangerous winter driving conditions (save that one drive to Iowa where I had to lay back my seat while E was driving because I was afraid we were going to slide off the road). Now with only 9.5 hours, I was thinking that this was something that I could do without complaint. Now that Finn has entered into the equation and the realization of how hard it is to just jump in the car and drive for almost 10 hours with a baby is, it still really difficult to do the drive. In fact, she is going to be 32 weeks this Thursday and we still haven't did the drive yet.
I was going to drive out near the end of my maternity leave, but she had other ideas when she realized that she was not a fan of the car, AT ALL. Going the short distance of 4.1 miles to Target was murder. I can recall one trip where I actually stopped TWICE in those 4 miles to see if I could get her to quiet without avail. And now that she might enjoy a car trip, my PTO (paid time off) is very limited due to my maternity leave earlier in the year -- that and the fact that I usually have to use at least 7 days for Christmas alone (being that I have to use my PTO for my holidays (don't even get me started) and with a trip to Iowa and a trip to NYC in those 7 days). I had thought about flying, but with ticket prices ever increasing and the fact that the airlines that fly out of Cleveland don't fly to Cedar Rapids without a heavy pricetag, those trips haven't happened yet either.
Let me tell you a little bit about my family. My maternal grandmother and her two sisters married my maternal grandfather and his two brothers. Did you get that? Three sisters married three brothers. The the sisters had other siblings and the brothers had other brothers. Most of them all lived in the same small Iowa town of less than 1,000 people. When I was growing up, our town's population was 744 -- according to the 2010 census, it's now up to 810. In my mom's high school class, I think I remember her saying that she had three cousins in her class alone. I used to joke with E that I think half of that 750 were my direct/distant relatives and that the reason I chose him was because he was outside of the gene pool. But to say that my family is small would be a lie. My mother is one of 9 and my father is one of 12. Christmas alone on my mom's side consists of over 60 people if everyone can make it and brings significant others and all kids.
Growing up, we used to have cake & ice cream for each birthday. We would get together for all holidays; Easter, Mother's/Father's Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas. We saw each other constantly. One of my cousins is only two months older than me. When we were little, we would play together all the time. As we got older, he started liking boy things and I started liking girl things and we grew apart. Now, it's hard to feel close when you only see each other once (or if you are lucky, twice) a year. I do try my hardest to keep in touch via social media, but sometimes life is just busy and you miss things.
Social media is a double-edged sword when you live so far away. I am able to keep abreast of photos and events that are going on. But I also see what I'm missing and lots of times wish desperately to be there. Those pangs of longing still cut deep even after moving away 10 years ago. And now those pangs also come with a worse pain -- knowing that my girl won't be as close to that family as I was growing up. I want her to play with her cousin Owen who is only 5 months older than her the same way I played with my cousin, Jeremy. I want her to be friends with her older cousins and know her aunts and uncles the way that I did. I ride the fine line between living in a dreamland of thoughts of returning to Iowa to raise my kids and realizing that I have to make my own family traditions (even if it's only me, her & the dogs) here.
I cry often, just thinking of things that she isn't going to have that I wish she would. Then, I realize that though I know what she is missing, she doesn't. And so I have to continue to try to find positives in being a distance apart. Everyday, I have to find a new and wonderful thing about living here so that her childhood is peppered with wonderful memories as mine was. I try hard. Most days, I think that I succeed.