It’s always just a little bitter-sweet to take a trip back to the place where we started. Some call it home, that place where our story began, even if it doesn’t feel quite the same as “home” once did.

There was so much laughter, so many smiles, and several affectionate pats on my burgeoning belly, some that lingered long and lovingly. I am often in awe of my family and how we fall into a common rhythm together even after we’ve spent so much time apart. This includes the in-laws.

The main event of last weekend was a baby shower. My two fabulous aunts gathered a crowd of well-wishing relatives on Saturday afternoon. I love that they did this for me, that so many people came bearing pastel-colored gift bags hung with rattles and ribbons. I have to say that it’s a little awkward be on the receiving end of such abundant generosity, especially since it might seem that this was the whole reason for our travel even though it wasn’t (the cost of our plane tickets could have easily supplied baby with all the essentials off the registry). Now, I’ve never really been the type to go all ga-ga over tiny clothes and other baby-sized accessories, but after sorting through bag after bag, and pile after pile of assorted green and yellow sleepers, onesies, bibs, hats and booties, I definitely see the appeal of shopping for such things. So when I think of the fun that everyone must have had walking through the aisles of the baby stores, I feel somewhat better about the whole “hopping over to the rain-soaked Midwest for some baby loot” thing. We know some incredibly giving people, and somehow the notes I will write to them over the coming weekend seem like they can’t come close to the appreciation in my heart.

Aside from the shower, we had few actual plans for the weekend. James and both our dads went to a Brewers game. I went shopping with my mom. We had dinner with all four parents like we do. Usually, we arrive to schedules and attempts to squeeze in a few lunches or dinners with friends or family besides the parents. This time, it was looser. But it was still brief.

I can’t say how it felt to anyone else, but I could already feel the time start slipping away as soon as the plane touched down on the tarmac. And there’s a certain pressure that comes with such precious and fleeting moments. I sometimes felt bad when there was silence, or when a few of us sat together in a room distracted by the news on TV or a rerun of Law & Order. I felt compelled in those relaxing or distracted moments to interact, but I also found it somewhat awkward to actually engage. A conundrum. Fortunately, though, those instances were rare.

We spent some time ogling baby clothes with my mom and again with his. I sat close to my mom on the couch with her hand waiting to feel a baby kick. We ate frozen custard at the kitchen table. Dad took me to lunch. We met friends for pie.

But I have to wonder if there is any way to avoid feeling like something or someone has been left out. In four short days, I’m pretty sure there isn’t. I know Mom was disappointed that she had to work, that we didn’t have time to include my brother’s full brood, that allergies and other circumstances prevent us from staying over. My mother-in-law is still dealing with her recovery from the hip surgeries, which often irritates her and causes tension in those around her, however unintentional. And I would have liked a little more one-on-one time with several of the shower guests, and maybe a bit more conversation related to what’s going on with us and a little less cracking jokes and goofing around (however hilarious) with the old gang of friends might have been nice. But I just have to keep in mind that one lunch, one ballgame, one slice of pie, one trip to the mall, one bowl of custard, one drive to the lake, one cocktail hour will never be enough to completely close the gap this distance has created.

We have all become such different people with such different lives that I think sometimes we might not know the best way to find each other again. I guess all we can do is just our best. We can tell our parents how much we miss them. We can trust our friends think of us fondly when they happen to think of us. We can send thank you cards and keep everyone close in our hearts. We can even go out on a limb and put these private, sweet-bitter contemplations on the Internet and hope that someone, maybe even the very family and friends we miss, might understand that no matter how few moments we spent in each other’s company, we’re still all bound together in some amazing ways.


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