“Mom, when are we going to change houses again?”
Emma doesn’t speak to me for the first half of our morning drive to daycare. I think it takes her that long to get over being pissed about having to get up in the morning. I can tell she’s over it when she suddenly launches into conversation.
“I don’t know, baby. Not anytime soon.”
I do that thing I suspect all mothers do – talking loudly to my front window so she can hear me while I concentrate on not running anyone over.
“What house are we going to go to?”
“I don’t know, honey. Nowhere right now.”
“What about that one?”
I don’t look back to see what she’s pointing to because the road to her daycare is littered with school crossing zones and angry volunteers from the sheriff’s department.
“Are we going to change to that one? How about that one? What about that one with the flag?”
“No, Emma,” I laugh. “Honey, if we change houses again it will probably be to go to New York City. But that’s not going to be for a while.”
I don’t have to turn around to hear her outrage.
“We’re not changing houses, Emma. Not for a while.”
“I don’t want to change towns!”
“Emma, we’re not going anywhere. Don’t worry.”
We’re almost to the daycare now, which is typical. Emma’s morning inquiries always seem to become the most serious just as I’m about to hand her off to a group of unsuspecting strangers.
“I do not want to change towns!”
I can’t help but laugh a little. Kids are always so sure that everything should stay the same forever.
“You want to live in Florida?”
“No. If we change towns again, I want to go to Iowa.”
Damn it. My chest tightens instantly at the mention of home.
“I thought you wanted to go see New York City? Wouldn’t that be cool?” and that’s where I would have stopped if I was smart. “What’s in Iowa, anyway?” I teased.
Her response was immediate and certain.
“And little Papa and Nanna and Jay and Creed. And Kellen and Ellie. That’s what is in Iowa.”
“That’s true. But isn’t it cool that we get to see other stuff, too? You still get to see Grandma and Papa and Nanna, too!”
“Mom,” she’s serious now, “I’m not on vacation.”
And she ends the conversation there. I turn into the parking lot and shut off the car and she is bubbling about needing an umbrella and someone else needing to carry her lunch for her. She’s not sad or angry. She doesn’t look homesick or lonely. It’s almost worse that way because it reminds me that her longing has just become a part of who she is rather than an emotional meltdown to be dealt with.
I do not need to be reminded that my daughter is fine. The girl radiates more than fine from her toes to her cheeks – which are usually full and tight from trying to contain her limitless happiness. I don’t need to be told that Devin is OK. He’s blossoming into a boy I hardly recognize since being in a school program that’s tailored to him – one that wasn’t available back in Iowa.
It is impossible for me to forget that we are happy here. I am surrounded by reminders that the move we made 21 months ago has been good for us. For all of us. Not just because of the things we’ve seen and done or the people we’ve met, but because of the people – and the family – that we’ve become since moving so far away from our roots.
But I also can’t forget what we’ve given up in exchange for all of that.
I can’t ignore what all of us have lost in order to gain so much.
After all this time, it still hurts to know that my children think of their grandparents daily. It hurts to hear them mention their cousins by name over and over again and ask when they will see them again. It hurts to think about how quickly everything changes and how much of each other’s lives we are missing out on.
Even when you know without a doubt that it’s for the best, sometimes it still hurts.