An incredibly ironic thing happened to my family a while ago…my childhood family, that is. Something so inconceivable that I never in my wildest dreams imagined it possible.
Anyways. As you know we grew up navy, bouncing around from town to town and pretty much being on our own. I grew accustomed to it just being us, my parents and siblings and any friends we collected along the way. Seeing my grandparents required travel to other states or waiting for their visits to our house, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen some of my aunts, uncles, or cousins. I guess you’d call us a self-contained unit, which you pretty much have to be when you pull up stakes and relocate every three years.
So when I graduated from college, got married, and began a life with BrightSide, I figured it would probably be the same with us. Even though BS and I wouldn’t be moving every three years my own family was scattered — my older sister’s family lived in Colorado, my parents were in Boston, and my brother was moving around himself since he was (and is) in the navy. I hoped that eventually my sister’s family might come back to the east coast but there were no guarantees on that, and my parents seemed to have retired to the Boston area. Best case scenario, I thought they might move down the coast to be closer to us. And I have to say, I never in a million years thought I’d end up living in North Carolina. The farthest south I’d ever been was Virginia, and I just couldn’t imagine myself fitting in further south than that.
BrightSide and I had lived here less than six months when my sister called out of the blue to ask if we were familiar with another city in NC and if it was anywhere near us. I practically dropped the phone. One, because I actually was familiar with the city (and frankly, geography’s never been my strong suit) and two, it was only 45 minutes away. Less than an hour! I hadn’t lived that close to my sister since she left for college, and I was thrilled at the idea of being near her again.
Even more surprising, a couple of years later my parents started researching retirement facilities in our state. They chose one in our city since we knew we wouldn’t be moving after establishing BrightSide’s office here. Not only did they move to our city, their new home was literally two blocks from my house. Now, I know many of you have grown up with plenty of family nearby so this wouldn’t have been particularly unsettling news to you…I, however, had experienced my entire childhood distant from extended relatives and my adult life separated from my parents by at least eight states…to be completely honest, I was a bit anxious about such a big change in my life.
Side note: Please understand that I’m already on board with the “you’ll be so grateful you had this time with them after they’re gone” sentiment. I know this intellectually; however, I’m a product of my upbringing, and my childhood taught me that a comfort zone for family involves distance. I’m still a work in progress.
Lo and behold, my family had (mostly) reunited. It is almost unfathomable that my parents, sister, and I now live within an hour of one another. We see each other more often than just at the holidays…we actually have family dinners, which once in a while still hits me as astonishing. We miss my brother terribly when we get together, but when he’s stationed on the east coast he joins us as much as possible.
The whole thing reminds me a little of the Wizard of Oz. A tornado came out of nowhere, picked up our family one by one, and dropped us here in North Carolina. If you’d asked any of us 20 years ago where we’d be now, I don’t think anyone would have predicted this. But we’re here, we’re together, we’re adapting, and there’s no place like home…