Whenever leaving a family gathering, I always feel of two minds. As leave-taking begins, I’m uncomfortably aware that many things may happen before we see our relatives again. Some we won’t see until next year at this time, and some we are fortunate to see more often. Some are driving a few hours, and some are flying several. Since last year children have grown, businesses have changed, people have gotten married, and other cousins have provided conversational fodder by getting divorced. Those of us who are grown up are getting older, bit by bit, but at differing rates. The kids change noticably from year to year, not only in their height but in their interests and behavior. Some even make the transition from the “kid’s table” to the grown up circles. Knowing that even more changes are inevitable makes each goodbye hug bittersweet.
The other half of me knows it’s time to be getting back to regular life and moving on to the next item on the schedule. There is a birthday party for some of us to attend tonight, exams next week, deadlines to be met and the calendar to be consulted. Life moves at varying speeds; family holidays are just quieter eddies in the rushing stream that is our life.
With each bittersweet hug, a little more of me moves away from the larger family, back to our little part of the whole, gone and away. By the time we are finally all in the car, we are all focused forward and not back. We may not be prepared for what is to come, but we’ll meet it head on.