October 19, 2010...12:01 am

Boys and Airports

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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.

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  • Oh! Sweet August! Now I’m crying.

    It’s so crazy when you realize your child has developed an attachment to his grandparents…we are close enough to see my parents fairly often. We joke that we see our families MORE since we moved two hours away…we simply take the time like we didn’t before. We’re so blessed in that Thomas has now stayed a couple of times with his grandparents without us…and this weekend was one of those times. He cried and was a total ill pill on the way home from their house…and since his language is not up to speed, he couldn’t say, “I miss Lovie and Gramps!” but I wonder if that’s what is going on.

    One thing that could be good for August and you…if you do end up staying for awhile in your church community, there’s probably a older couple or member who is missing their grandkids like crazy. A relationship could develop and August (and new baby) could have a ‘church granny’ that is able to give him that sense of family beyond you and your husband.

    It is so hard when we’re away from our families. I like to console myself that people really don’t live in family compounds much anymore; that living in the same town as your family is paramount to luxury.

  • Micha, it is awesome that you have a family and that August already knows and loves them. My Dad had some seizures recently and then I spent a week completely awake trying to figure out how I would raise my then 19 and now 20 year old sister if he died.

    But then she turned 20, my Dad seems better, we ate sushi, etc. It has all reminded me that everyone in my life is precious.

    But I don’t, and have never had, much family, in terms of numbers (which I am okay with, because the people I have are so awesome). I am so glad that you and August and Chris get to see your parents. And he is an excellent Yankee (pass that on).

    So…Alex and August were born one day apart! That is some good timing. Harwell can probably tell you more about zodiac signs or whatever; I just know that my family has stuck out a lot of stuff, and yours will too. I love reading your posts while it is still dark out here. They are great to wake up too. xoxocaq

  • my heart aches for you guys. my boys love and miss their grandparents, too!! My parents were also in town over the weekend, to celebrate my youngest’s birthday, and every morning since they’ve left he’s ran into the ‘guest room’ in the morning and then been super-sad that they aren’t there anymore. me too. sigh. hugs to you all.

  • Oh man! We feel lots of the same thing. Especially, being the only ones who are far. Our kids can’t go and spend the night with their grandparents like their cousins can and it makes me sad. So my question is…at what point can I put my kid on a plane and send them off for a weekend with their grandparents? Will I ever be brave enough to put my kid on a plane without me? Cause I have treasured memories of weekends with grandparents and I want my kids to have those, too.

    Sorry August was sad, and that you were, too. But, I think you’re right. How awesome is it that our kids love their grandparents so much…and that their grandparents find ways to be connected, even when it’s challenging? Love you!

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