Today, we three went to see The Hobbit and have dinner. My two dear ones sat together on one side of the booth. Pushing, shoving, and tickling. Laughter and love.
They played chase all the way back to the car.
We got in and I couldn’t contain it any more. “WHO HAD FUN TODAY??!!” I screamed.
“MEEEEEEE!!!!” They both chimed with equally loud shouts of joy. The years between us didn’t matter. There was no posturing to be cool or adult or anything really.
Just three people, being silly, loving each other, laughing together.
And then in the dark, she turned on the radio and I let the tears run silently down my face. How much of her I have missed. How much of a hole she has filled. How much of a gap she will leave.
I cried for the years I have missed. I see it there at times, this sweet little girl she must have been. I wish I had been there. I wish I could have soothed the hurt and saved her from some of the pain she carries.
But then, if I had been there, she wouldn’t have had the experiences that she did to grow into who she is now. The sassy, sweet, salty girl who colors my world. And that girl I love.
And I cried for her departure. She has become such a part of our lives.
It’s funny, because when she first got here, she had a pretty nonchalant attitude about it all. She would tell me that she didn’t need to buy gifts for people because she didn’t know them. She would never see them again.
But then, I would catch her taking a picture of this one. Leaning in towards that one.
The other day, we ran into my friend Sean at Wal-mart. She knew exactly who he was. She tilted her head with that little sly look at me, because we have an inside joke about him. We’ve been to his house. We know his roommate. We have inside jokes about him, too.
Without knowing it, she’s found a life here. She’s become part of a community. And it has been such a pleasure to watch it happen.
Christmas holidays with my family. New Year’s with good friends. Coffee dates and shopping dates and hang-around-each-other’s-houses dates.
We spent a few days with my best friends Louis and Jocelyn and their two girls. She was unsure before she went. What did these people matter? They were just pictures on my fridge. She would never see them again.
But she couldn’t resist the showering of love by my goddaughters, the sweet comfort that Jocelyn creates in her home, and the game-for-anything energy of Louis. She left as part of our little family. Their youngest was crying before we even pulled out of the driveway.
That’s what love does: it creates community, a place where an orphan can have a family, where the lonely are embraced, where those who have no one find ones who care.
And it can be confusing and overwhelming and exhausting. It is sometimes processed by pulling back. Or maybe through criticism. Or confusion.
Or perhaps, sometimes with the words, “This family, good family. I like. I think, maybe, I come again to this family?”
Oh my dear, sweet girl. You couldn’t get away if you tried. You are embedded in our hearts, and this is home for you any time you need it. I know that you have a life across an ocean, and someday I hope to see that life and experience your world. But now you also have a life here. And we will miss you when you are gone.
Until then, I will hug you and make you laugh and embarrass you and soak up your words and memorize your face and love you with everything I have.
Because that’s what family does.