My parents just landed in Florida. I miss them already. They split their time between Fort Myers and a place on the South Shore near Cape Cod. When they sold my childhood home more than 10 years ago, I was okay with it all. Until I wasn't. One day I just started to sob uncontrollably when I realized that I would never walk through those doors again; as if my childhood had suddenly disappeared. All those Thanksgivings and Christmases, and parties and family gatherings. My room and the barn and the yard and the cozy feeling of just being home. Gone. Of course I had my own home and my own children to raise, but things would never be quite the same.
Because I live more than 2 hours away, my visits are always too few. I was able to see them about a half dozen times over the course of five months, but I always felt guilty about not visiting more. I didn't know the last time I saw them in September would be the last time. We had all made plans to meet in Boston so they could tour Kate's school. They have always loved going into the city, so we made a day of it—a walk around campus and the neighborhood, and lunch. It was a nice day.
The next visit was supposed to take place just a couple of weeks later. This time they were coming my way. They spent some time really getting to know Peterborough a couple of years ago, so they were looking forward to strolling through town and visiting the stores. But life intervened. My Dad had to fly back to Florida to visit a sick friend, and my mom just wasn't up for the drive by herself. By the time my Dad returned, I was the one with a full schedule.
Although I haven't seen them in a few weeks, just knowing they're not in Massachusetts any longer makes me miss them even more. I have visions of my children visiting their childhood home with their own children in tow. The Thanksgiving table will be filled with family. Sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's house would be a mainstay. But, I had always thought that would happen in my parents' home, too. Especially during the holidays.
Every Thanksgiving, we would pack the car the day before and stay at least a couple of nights at my parent's house. Three kids, one dog, and all the necessities for living away from home for three or four days would be crammed into every available space. Mom always started cooking the day before, so the house already smelled heavenly the moment we walked through the door. The girls would help prepare the stuffing while Dad took David and me out to grab some pizzas for dinner. As we waited, we would sit and have a drink while we chatted about who was coming for dinner (I have a large extended family), and then Dad would catch me up on family business.
Once we returned with the pizzas, Mom would barely sit down long enough to eat. She was always fussing with the dining table making sure she everything was just right. She was and is the consummate hostess. She knows your favorite food and drink and she will always make you feel at home. Sated and happy, we would head to bed—the kids in my childhood bedroom, David and me in my sister's room. Come morning, we would be woken up by the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. Mom was up before dawn already in the kitchen. After all of the fanfare, we would be left with leftovers and a quiet house once again. I can remember these images so vividly and I miss them terribly.
Once my parents moved (Mom, and Dad especially, took to living in Florida like a fish to water), things changed. The holiday destinations were now divided between David's large family and my sister and me. And now that all of our children are older and having children of their own, it's usually spent at home. In fact, we just ordered our Thanksgiving turkey this morning.
But it's just not the same. Our family traditions and holidays are all wonderful, but I miss how things used to be, too. We talk on the phone, text, and send photos back and forth, but there will always be a little hole in my heart that opens a little bit wider whenever I cook my Mother's Thanksgiving menu down to the tiniest detail, or when it's just a Tuesday and I know I can't get in my car and make the drive to see them.
I don't think you can ever be too old to need your parents.
Photo: My Dad sitting in front of one of my grandmother's paintings - 1965. Like mother like daughter, there are very few photos of my mother that she would approve of me posting here. You're welcome, mom.