Scrolling through Instagram I saw a picture that caught my eye. It wasn’t the beauty, skill of the photographer or vibrant colors that stopped my finger from swiping up. It was three words that adorned a mudroom wall.
Always Come Home
I am riding the tsunami of emotions that is Senior Year. It is uncharted territory for me. Ellie is our oldest and the range of emotions I experience in a day pull me to Stretch Armstrong proportions. I felt a lump forming in my throat, and averted tears by scrolling on to a video of toddlers behaving badly. A short 18 years ago I was driving myself to the hospital because I went into labor 2 weeks early and cell phones were not an everyday accessory. Today, I watch as my children drive off to school each morning and wonder how those once tiny and helpless creatures have grown into semi self-sufficient human beings.
When Ellie was little her favorite way to take a walk, watch a show or eat was, “Like a family.” She wanted us together, and her way to explain it was simple and sweet.
“Like a family, momma. Like a family.”
Those words were Ellie’s mantra for quite a while. She knew the importance of our family unit. Kids really are remarkable beings, and in the most uncomplicated and purest ways they remind us and teach us. The “Like a family” days have quickly faded, and I find myself in a bit of a roll reversible.
My begging and pleading for family time are on par with any toddlers in our zip code. Time together is precious, and I usually catch Ellie walking out the door or wave as we cross paths in the driveway. Texting is my window to her world, and an emoji response to a meme I shared is a parenting win. Her need for me is different and I am torn between the pride I have in her evolving independence and the fear I have of letting her go. Oh, how I miss her tiny hand cradled in mine and crave the weight of her sleepy toddler self nestled on my chest. I realize when I cry I am not crying for what is ahead, I am crying for what is no more. The moments I cursed the clock for standing still, the times I was tired, crabby and wanted to be anywhere but where I was. But like her mother before her, I hope and pray she will forge her own trail, but never, ever forget the path that leads home.
Soon I will quietly count the days until Ellie returns with laundry, friends, stories, and tears of happiness and regret. She will come home and for a short while we will be “Like a family.” No matter where we are, what we do or don’t do, we are a family. Her family, the people, and place she daydreams of seeing in her rearview mirror will be her true north; her azimuth. Not perfect, not what she will always think she needs, but the place she can always return to.
And there might even be a new sign hanging up to remind her.
Always Come Home