Family, Happy Days

Happy 100 Days: 10

In the hours before we leave for the airport, the erratic artillery fire of footsteps rattles the house. Four of us, up and down and in and out. We somehow manage to eat a full breakfast and pull off an early-morning pre-Christmas gift exchange in the midst of it all. Bug purchased surprise tchotchkes for all of us from Colvin Run Mill’s gift weekend for kids. Volunteers take children through the country store with their lists and budget helping them both pick out and wrap the presents. Parents are not allowed. It if fun to see my little boy growing up enough to take pride in selecting treasures for each of us. He bought me a lime green kitty cat ring-keeper. Considering how much he loves to play in my jewelry box, the gift is especially sweet.
 
During our morning exchange, Bug crawled around behind the tree and made a pile for each of us. It is amazing how quickly he has put the alphabet together into words. He reads the names on the tags easily, tossing each gift into a pile. Never mind that the tags are hand-letters and a little smeary and that each of us goes by different names to one another. He understands whose is whose. He counts them out and makes sure we take turns.
 
Then we are done and off to the bath, the laundry, the packing. Giovanni stops by to drop off gifts and to say goodbye. This is not an easy moment. He is moving out of his apartment in a few weeks and we are seeing less of each other. The New Year will be very different than the last. After giving Bug the winning gift of the morning — a Lego minecraft set  — Giovanni kneels down and says, “Listen, buddy. I won’t be seeing a lot of you. If you ever, ever want to talk to me, you just tell your mommy that you want to call me. You can call me anytime, okay?”
 
“Okay,” Bug says, only half looking at him. Giovanni sweeps Bug into a bear hug and tells him he loves him. Watching him attend to my son through this farewell makes me shiver. I can feel those arms as if they are holding my own heart. I take a breath and decide not to cry as he kisses me hard before driving away.
 
Soon, we are at the end of the morning. We take out the garbage, empty the dishwasher, set up the cat’s food bowl for the kitty-sitter. All through it, the bump-bump-bump the overstuffed suitcases and the last remembered items shake the rafters.
 
Another Christmas awaits us when we land at DFW. My grandmother, still kicking at 92 despite the dementia and the broken hip, will have all five of her children and a good fraction of her assorted grandkid under one roof this year. It will be bright chaos. It will be a story to tell.
 
And we never know when it might be goodbye.
 

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