Had We But World Enough And Time

If I'm lucky, I get to see my parents three times a year---once at Christmas when I go to Singapore, once in the summer when they come to the States, and usually once in the spring, when one of them comes for a visit. I realize that most people my age would mean something very different by "if I'm lucky"---they'd mean they were lucky not to have to see their parents very often, that three times a year was the minimum effort they had to put in. When I say I'm lucky to see my parents three times a year, I do sincerely mean I'm lucky. Seeing my parents three times a year is, to me, a lot of times to see my parents. And I know it's not very hip or avant-garde of me or anything, but I like my parents.

I'm used to the goodbyes, of course---I spent seven years at a boarding school in England while my family was abroad, and then three more at university in London. The goodbyes, as you would imagine, make the reunions that much sweeter. They make the time together that much more important, more poignant, more valuable. They also mean that you get some pretty awesome special treatment, for at least the first few days. If you're coming home, your favorite foods will be in the fridge. If you're being visited, your favorite foods will be in the suitcase. You pretty much can't go wrong.

When my dad came to see me in Charleston this time last year, I wrote about how, living so far from one’s family, one often forgets the relief at being reunited with them, the comfort at knowing nothing needs to be explained. The most vivid memory I have of visiting my family for the first time, after having moved to Charleston earlier that year, is the palpable relief that flooded through me as I walked through the airport terminal towards the arrivals lounge. For two whole weeks, I suddenly realized, I wouldn't have to think about what to make for dinner. Someone would be looking after me; I could surrender control. No matter how old you are or how grown up you think you've become, you're never too old to be glad that your mother is making your dinner.

My dad came to visit last weekend, en route to a business meeting, and the two and a half days he was here were among the most enjoyable I've had in San Francisco so far, and certainly the most relaxing. My mother always says she sleeps best when all of her family is in one place, and perhaps this is why I was able to take not one but two afternoon naps over the weekend. (And if you know me at all, you know I never take naps.) Perhaps some little safety latch in me was unlocked, just knowing my dad was right in the next room if I needed him. We toured the city by foot and by car, we drove across the bridge to Sausalito in the rain, we saw a Giants game---and the whole panorama of the bay---from perhaps the highest seats in the stadium, and we drank a lot of tea. We also ate a lot of cheese. Don't let anyone tell you that eating cheese together isn't the highest form of family bonding.

What I realized, once my dad had left and I was feeling a little fragile, was how glorious it had been to have him to myself. As one of four children, I'm always fighting for the attention of one of my parents---I have been, in fact, since I was three and my brother Tom came along. For me, two whole days with just my dad---and next week, when she comes to visit, ten whole days with just my mum---is like Christmas, my birthday, and the clearance rack at TJ Maxx all rolled into one for me.

So call your mother. Call your father. Better yet, go and visit them if you can. Say hello. Tell them you miss them. Tell them you wish you could see them more than you do.

Apr 26, 2007

In fact, go see Little Miss Sunshine. That's the IDEAL movie to make you realize that no matter how crazy your family are, they're your damned family, and they're more than likely the ONLY ones who make you feel safe enough to nap.

I know exactly what you mean, I've been living apart from mine since 16 - even though they dragged me to Qatar when they first became expats. I miss them like crazy. Yes, they drive me mad when I'm with them, but I know that I can get a hug from Dad, and Boursin from Mum's fridge whenever I want.

And as I age (gracefully, I hasten to add), it bothers me less when someone remarks "you're like your Mum" or "you did that just like your father would" etc.

*searching for coins to call Australia*

Apr 26, 2007

I live half a country away from my family (whis is nothing compared to Singapore to San Francisco) but I feel just the same way. I see them about four times a year, and it's nowhere near enough. Why did it suddenly get so uncool to like your family?

Exiled to Canada
Apr 26, 2007

I live in Canada and my parents are in the SW USA. I only see them 3-4 times a year as well and it's very hard. I see them once at Christmas, once in the summer and then if I'm lucky they come here either in the Spring or Fall. I have their only grand child so that gives them more incentive. ;-) I know exactly how you feel. Even though my parents have moved several times since I left home for college, wherever they are always feels like home. My Mom cooks, my Dad drives us everywhere, it's just very comforting not to be in charge for awhile. Today is my birthday and my Dad always tries to call early enough to wake me up on my birthday. Since I'm now 2 time zones ahead of him, he can't seem to call before I'm out of bed. So today I pretended to be sleepy so he would get that satisfaction. I know it means a lot to him to be the first one to tell me "Happy Birthday!" Of course, today he was the first one to tell me that...the wife and I will be discussing that later and it better be over a double chocolate cake! (with no candles, or so help me...)

Apr 26, 2007

Funny timing on this one. I am right now in the process of negotiating a trans-Atlantic visit from my mother to finally view her latest grandchild, and as the complications mount, so does my desire to have this visit come to fruition. I think I'll call her tonight... Thanks for the kick in the pants.

wood from sweetjuniper
Apr 26, 2007

From the moment I saw the picture at the top, I had a lump in my throat. The way you talk about your family and your parents makes me realize that it is possible that our daughter will grow up to not just love us, but like us. Nothing in the world would make me happier.

I love it when you write about your parents.

(I also am glad you have that shins song over there, because I've had that song stuck in my head but I haven't been able to listen to it because Dutch does all the ipoding around here, which means I can't find what I want. so: thank you.)

(also, we saw the shins in san francisco once too. it makes me very happy to think of you there.)

Apr 26, 2007

I am incredibly fortunate to have both of my parents ten minutes away. I get to see them every single day- it is a rare day that I don't see them. Thanks for reminding me of how lucky I am. And now, a totally different topic. Where did the name "Nothing but Bonfires" come from? Is that a stupid question with a very obvious answer?

Apr 26, 2007

I live two hours away from my parents, and if you ask me, that's the perfect distance. It's far enough away that they can't drop by every day (which, as much as I love my parents, I really don't want them to do), but close enough that I could visit them at a moments notice if I needed to. I am very lucky.

Apr 26, 2007

I live almost 600 miles from my parents but see them 1-2 times a year. It's not on purpose we're all just really tight financially.

I feel the same way about their visits- except that they cannot make a decision on simple things like WHERE TO EAT... but still, I love them and totally wish we were able to see each other more.

It's funny how adulthood seems to bring us closer to our parents and revert us back to childhood when we are with them-- And that's perfectly okay!

Apr 26, 2007

I'm 34, and go to Mom & Dad's house for lunch every weekday. My husband and friends think I'm crazy and poke fun from time to time, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thespian Libby
Apr 26, 2007

I miss my mom....

Apr 26, 2007

My mom lives in Arizona, I'm in Minnesota and that was the best thing to happen for our relationship. I love her but she drives me crazy. I think I'll call her and tell her that tonight.

Sarah Marie
Apr 26, 2007

I'm planning a flight home for the first week of June (one of 3 or 4 trips I usually do in a year). This trip will be extra special because I'll be there for my birthday! Nothing like waking up in your mom's house knowing it's your birthday.

Apr 26, 2007

That's a sweet and touching post. My parents are on the other side of the continent, and due to financial constraints and my mother's poor health I only see them once a year or so. I'll call them tonight and tell them how much I appreciate them. (In particular, now that I have a small child, I'll tell them that I appreciate them not strangling me at age three.)

Apr 26, 2007

Just before Easter this year I was feeling really cranky and tired of the whole work thing and was just generally pissy. Then my lovely husband and I go to visit my parents who live 3 hours away and I came back revived. We ate our favourite dinners, all of our favourite snacks were in the house and my dad bought us lots of cheese to eat. Our only responsibilty was to get ourselves out of bed, get dressed and walk the dogs. It was the best tonic for restoring my good spirits. My mom turns 80 this year and I know how lucky I am to still have both of them alive and healthy. Fingers crossed, they will be around for years to come. Thanks Holly for the lovely entry. I am calling them as soon as my fingers stop typing this comment.

Apr 26, 2007

I am nearly 40 and have two children of my own, but I feel the same way about my parents.

Lovely post.

Apr 26, 2007

My parents live about 5 minutes away from me and I know I take it for granted that they are just an arms reach away. Thank you for this post because I feel I need reminding every now and then how fortunate I am. I hope you have great fun with your mom next week!

Apr 26, 2007

It's so nice to hear someone else loves their parents as much as I do mine. I love them both, and what's more, I like them. A lot. I enjoy their company. It makes me feel very lucky.

Apr 26, 2007

You are so right about this. In fact, my husband and I are in the process of moving BACK to my hometown (I never thought that would happen!) to be closer to family. There is just no substitute for family, and we realized that we didn't have forever to make that decision... I think it's going to be great.

notsoccer mom
Apr 26, 2007

great post, holly. i know exactly what you're talking about, even though it's been a while since i've had those feelings. but honestly, this is pretty much what i miss the most about my mom! she's been gone three years now but my dad and are i getting along so much better than we ever did before, which is such an unexpected gift. i did just pick up the phone and called him. thanks for the reminder!

Apr 26, 2007

Aww, that's so sad that you only get to see your parents 3 times a year! I am a nerd, too, in that my parents, especially my Mom, are some of my best friends. We live less than 2 miles away from them and have dinner with them almost every Friday night. When they announced that they were selling their house and moving an hour away, we cried. Thankfully plans have changed a bit and they decided to rent instead of sell so they can come back if they don't like it where they are moving to. But still..*WAIL!!!* I'll miss popping in whenever I want to steal leftovers and goodies from the cupboard on my lunch break or hanging out with Mom on the weekends and touring her backyard garden. Good parents are awesome and so irreplaceable.

Apr 26, 2007

great piece ...and I can totally relate, which is in fact, the hardest part of the reality of a potential move across country (to you! In San Fran!). Its very hard coming to terms with living in the place that is best for your own aspirations, though far from one's loved ones, and at the same time, being one of those 'unhip' individuals that would like nothing more than to have dinner with your family most nights of the week (well I say that being 1000 mi away from everyone). My mom says the exact same thing about sleeping well when we are all together, under her roof...I am going to NY next weekend to be with my family members, as thats where my sister and brother live, and everyone keeps asking me 'what are you going to do while you are in NY?!' and I don't have much of an answer, because I know that it won't be anything 'exciting', but nonetheless wonderful to be all together for a short weekend..

Apr 26, 2007

Now I'm REALLY sad- I only live a few states/1800 miles from my parents, but the times we *could* see them are when airfare is insanely expensive (might as well BE Singapore, to fly into Colorado in winter) and the times I want them to come out - I'm up to my eyeballs in weddings. It's already been over a year. Siiigh. I think I'm going to go and cry and wish for my moms' cooking. Good post.

Apr 26, 2007

Aw, that's the way I feel about my parents too. They're only 6 hours away by car and just an hour or so away by plane, but being poor students, we only see them about 5 times a year (and I realize I'm luckier than some)...however, that's really going to change in 4 months when we move 1600 miles away. Then it's going to be maybe once or twice a year. Sucks. But those few days a year when I wake up in my mom's house are so nice. The only thing I have to worry about is what to eat for breakfast and where we're going shopping that day! I don't even check my email. It's the best vacation ever. There is no other place on earth that feels as safe and no other place I feel so loved.

Apr 26, 2007

I agree with Nomes' suggestion to see Little Miss Sunshine. It's a great movie.

And, I guess your post helped me realize how much I take my parents for granted, being able to see them almost everyday.

Apr 27, 2007

I'm like you: very lucky in the parent department, but I only see them a few times a year. Thank goodness for in-network cell phone plans, because I call them each every day. Glad you had fun with your dad...and 10 days with your mom! Dang I'm jealous!

Apr 27, 2007

Beautiful post.

My parents are over half a country (Canada) away, and it pains me every day. I moved away from them at 17 - first to go to uni, then farther to follow a boy (now my husband), but didn't realize how much I'd miss them, especially with the second move. We try to see each other once a year, but it's not easy. That said, I can't wait to book my tickets to go home this summer.

Apr 27, 2007

My father died suddenly three years ago last week; I miss him more rather than less. I wish so often I could call him. My mother is quite ill and the idea of being without both of them is terrifying. So thank you for reminding me to cherish the time I do have.

Apr 27, 2007

I'm so happy to be at a point in my life where someone saying, "You're so much like your mother..." prompts me to reply, "Wow, thank you!"

Apr 27, 2007

That was a gorgeous post - what's with everyone writing so beautifully today?? I'm really lucky, in that my parents live about 1/2 hour away, and my mom works literally 2 minutes from my house, so I can see them whenever I want. My in-laws live about an hour or so from us, and we don't see them enough, but more than so many people do, I guess. I love being near family, and even though I'd also love to move somewhere else I think it would be heartbreaking to not be able to run over to my mom's at the drop of a hat.

Apr 27, 2007

So wonderful to hear that you care so much for your parents and enjoy their visits so thoroughly.

However, I have to say that I will not be contacting my parents to say I wish I saw them more than I do. I live in their basement. I see them too much and I am currently working 2 jobs and am gone for up to 18 hours 2-5 days a week. Someday in the future I will. for now, not so much. :D

Apr 27, 2007

March 26 was the one year anniversary of my father's death. He was 83. My mom passed away in January of 2000, she was 74 and my best friend in the world. Your posts about your folks always touch my soul. Cherish them, every crazy minute you have with your family. It is missed when it's gone. It helps to know that my parents knew without a shadow of a doubt how much I loved them and I know without a shadow of a doubt how much they loved me. Never take it for granted, take it in, savor it. Thanks for once again making me cry....but in a good way I swear! :) Lisa

Apr 27, 2007

I feel nothing but sadness -- and a little guilt -- when I read posts like this, and comments like those above. Much of the time, I truly wish my parents were dead. Whenever I read about someone losing a beloved parent, I wish it had been one of mine that had died in his/her place. I do not feel this way to be "cool" -- in fact, I usually only reveal this fact anonymously, in blog posts and comments.

However, my parents are good grandparents --- that is their only redeeming quality, and the reason they are still in my life.

Apr 27, 2007

Thanks for that post, Holly. I lost my Dad 5 1/2 years ago and I think about him every day. My mom lives close by, so I get to see her regularly, but I love to hear people say how much they appreciate their parents, now, this day and every day. I'm sure your parents are equally delighted to have you for a daughter, and I'm sure they treasure their relationship with you as much, if not more, than you treasure yours with them.

I have to go eat a piece of chocolate now, I'm weepy. :)

Apr 29, 2007

So glad you get to see your mom! My parents live 1/2 way across the country, and I get to see them about 3 times a year too. It's not enough for me either. The only reason we don't live in the same city is because I hate the Arizona heat. In fact my husband and I have been thinking of moving to Ireland for several years, but haven't done it, only because I don't know if I could be an ocean away from my parents. Do you ever regret living so far away from them?

Apr 30, 2007

Oh, does this post hit home with me! But I actually live REALLY far away from home and my parents... As in across the Atlantic in Europe. My parents are on the East Coast, where I grew up, and if I'm lucky I get to see them once, maybe twice a year. Last year I was lucky -- I saw them in early June, and then again for New Year's. This year I may not get to see them again 'til the holidays...

And I realize more and more with age how much I really do miss them. Even them we're not a family that "calls" each other that often, I know we're always thinking of each other. It's just the way we function -- every family is different, after all. My boyfriend, who is French, always finds it surprising that we don't talk more often. But that's just the way it is! But when we DO talk, boy, my mom and I can go on forever... Last night it was over an hour. And it was my dad's birthday -- when he came on the phone we talked for all of 10 minutes, but that was all we needed. It's just different...

And I can totally relate to what Scarlet said above: my family is the same! They never seem to be able to decide where to go out to eat! And I thought we were the only ones... It's reassuring to know we're not alone.

I also agree that even though I wish I could see my family more often, I think the distance has been healthier for my mom and I, because as much as I love her, she drives me crazy too!

My boy has told me that as much as he might like to move to the U.S., he just doesn't know if he could move that far away from his family. And he lost his mom last year... So I know how important it is to him to be as close to them as possible.

Saucepan Man
Apr 30, 2007

Call me a pedant, Alice, but Holly actually has a bigger distance problem than you. (Your second sentence.)19 hours flying time from San Francisco to Singapore versus 7 hours from Continental Europe to the US East Coast. Doesn't matter really, I know; it's the fact you're a plan-ride apart - but just to set the record straight...

May 01, 2007

We moved back to the city I spent most of my childhood and all my teenage years to be near my parents and my grandmother. I love having my parents just 2 miles down the road. I love going to Costco Saturday mornings with just me and my dad. My boys love having their grandparents at their baseball games, family, its what it really is all about for us.

Your folks certainly did something right to keep you yearning for their time...certainly hope I can do the same!