We went to my parents’ house over the weekend.
On Thursday morning, the six of us—me and James and Faye along with my sister Cait and her two guys—took an early train ride. We were four sleepy parents, two very awake tinies, and a handful of reverse-commute office types. On our long weekend away we worked for a day from a makeshift office of our own making on my mom and dad’s back porch while “Grammy” got the two little guys into mischief. We opened beers before five and ate dinner past bedtimes. We went to the beach and saw old friends and new babies and worked to make sure Faye didn’t put her hands in the pasta salad. We sorted through books in my parents’ attic. We bought flowers from our favorite farmers. Faye took her first twelve steps in one glorious run. Oliver became enamored with the way the sun glints through the water spray of a hose turned skyward. We ate homemade lobster rolls. We had family and friends join us in my mom and dad’s backyard for a picnic. We got mosquito bites but avoided sunburns. We watched a fireworks display play second fiddle to the majesty of a red moon rising above the Long Island sound. We tested the staying power of the tiniest members of our crew with late nights and the resiliency of the rest of us with early mornings. Thank goodness there was coffee and bagels to fortify. We waved tiny flags at old-fashioned fire trucks and shamelessly collected parade candy that tasted like crayons, as it should.
Almost none of that is in the pictures.
I managed to post a few shots on Instagram. I lugged my heavy camera with us on the train and only snapped 12 photos over the course of roughly as many minutes. They’re more or less all the same: All blurry. All featuring Faye and a giant blue ball in my parents’ backyard. Sometimes that’s how it goes.
But here’s the secret: the best stuff is almost never in the photos.
My sister Cait is moving across the country in just a few short weeks.
She and her husband and our sweet O will be packing up their tiny Manhattan apartment into boxes and saying goodbye to the East Village. My brother-in-law will drive a truck across the country while my sister and her intrepid sidekick will board an Amtrak train and take the rail route across the continent to meet him in Portland, Oregon. There will be a set of grandparents and more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I can count on two hands to greet them. For my sister’s family it will be a return to something familiar and the start of something new, both at the same time.
And for us, too.
This space has never really been one where I’ve recorded the daily comings and goings of my personal life. But right now I’m gearing up for learning how to live in this place without my bosom friend just a subway ride away.
It’s not the first time that there will be a landmass or an ocean between us and I’ve got two other sisters half a country away in the southerly direction. You get used to the distance. You find new habits and rhythms and finally remember to calculate the time difference before making a 5:00 am phone call. You live with the fact that nothing replaces being able to sip an iced coffee together on your morning walk to work. You read metaphorical tea leaves trying to figure out what might come next. For you and for them. But mostly you feel lucky that you’ve got sisters worth missing at all.
I guess my point is that life is more complicated than it appears. Harder, sometimes, but also much, much more wonderful. I’ve recorded for the public record only a few of the hundred tiny things in a week that make living close to a sister so wonderful. But I’ve stored them all the same. They’ll stay in the most dependable repository of all, which is, of course, the heart.
Here’s to long-distance sisters. And here’s to booking plane tickets. The only cure for heartache is action.