Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I was born in Southern California not far from both sets of grandparents and lived there until I was almost four. My mom says she used to take me to my Grandma Day's house almost every single day but, sadly, I don't remember these visits. I do have memories socked away from my time as a California girl but they are few and far between and really, really random.

Like the time we were all sitting around our living room (me, my parents, some grandparents, more adults...?) watching Connie Chung on the news while I wore my Connie Chung wig. Or the time I debuted my new hair cut - bangs cut into the shape of a W - and explained (in song) that I had to "Cut that gray right out of my hair!" (do you remember that commercial?). Or how about the time I ran after the ice cream truck in my mom's long powder blue negligee pretending, nay, convinced I would be mistaken for, Princess Di?

I was nothing if not fashionable.

But most of my memories of my grandparents are from after we moved. A handful of Thanksgivings with cousins we didn't know, summer road trips divided between this guestroom or that, extended grandparent visits at our house that always felt more weird than anything (you run home from the bus stop to find your grandpa vacuuming the living room in his bathrobe WITH HIS COLOSTOMY BAG SHOWING and tell me it doesn't weird you out a little!).

While I loved these visits (yes, even the creepy ones), I always wondered why we had to live in Reno while everyone else lived in California. And that's not even that far away! We could all pile in the car and be at my grandparents' house by dinnertime if we really hustled. It was why we couldn't just stay that I never understood.

Fast forward almost 30 years (gulp) and here I am raising my child (soon to be children...) no where near the rest of our family. A 10 hour drive for Thanksgiving with Grandma is a pipe dream - the one time we drove it, it took close to a week for us to get to here from there. And the flights, while doable, are an all day affair that really add up once you start booking two, three, four separate seats.

When Liam talks about Reno (like, allllll the time) and says things like, "Wouldn't it be cool if we just found a house in Reno that we could live in all the time?", I have to admit, it's hard not to see his point.

I mean, there are tons of good reasons we live where we live but I don't think any of them help a four year old understand why time with his Grandma and Patches (and Grandma and Boompa and Auntie Moose and Uncle Erick and his cousins...) has to be such a luxury.

And after a blissed out couple of days with grandparents in the house, it's even harder not to take his side. I mean, they were so darn cute together! Happily squished into the backseat on Liam's request, walking hand-in-hand everywhere we went, on lock-down in Liam's room for hours on end...not to mention such random acts of cuteness as Liam sighing out of the blue, "I love you, Patches."

I'd like to convince myself that it's no big deal to live far away from family but I'm starting to wonder if I'm wrong. Am I wrong? Or am I doing that thing where I think my family would be exactly like the made for TV families if only we lived in the same town? How important is it for children to grow up as a part of something greater than themselves? Does that have to mean biological family? Are we robbing our son (and ourselves?) of something irreplaceable or creating something precious all on our own?

(I feel like Carrie Bradshaw when I type questions like this to no one in particular. Now I can't help but Sex and the City 2 going to be good or have they totally jumped the shark? I mean, camels? Really?)

How does your family do it?


hezza said...

Sex and the City 2 will be very bad. As for families...I have no idea. Look at me for god's sake.

ae said...

My mother and I just got back from Kansas City, where my sister, brother-in-law and 2 y/o nephew currently live.

And while that's a plane ride or 10 hour drive away, it beats the hell out of their previous locations.

My brother-in-law is in the Marine Corps, and they've spent most of the last decade in California. Which, given that his parents are in Virginia and mine are in Georgia, means that there's not a lot of Sunday dinners with the grandparents.

Right now, Tom (my b-i-l) is deployed in Afghanistan, so my sister and nephew have made 2 extended trips to Atlanta, and my mother and I flew up last weekend for a visit.

That said, if they end up in California or Hawaii or (God forbid) Okinawa next, I'll miss some really fun years with my nephew.

We use Skype to fill in some cracks.

But the answer is - there is no good answer.


Cora White said...

exactly the issue we are wrestling with. Parents are getting to be an age where there health is another factor in the mix

Anonymous said...

Maggie, you know how much I love, and benefit from, having my parents and sister close by. I honestly can't imagine doing it (parenting) without them. With that said, it also seems that you guys really really love TN and have formed an amazing circle of friends there. Not to mention the cultural benefits, which NV does not really offer! Friends absolutely do become family.
But I do love that JT especially has little inside jokes and begs to go to Grandmas or ZZ's. But, Liam has the same relationship with Moose and his grandparents, just via Skype, not on their laps as often. So, I must say, there is no good answer either.

sunT said...

i think family isnt just biological.

Halie said...

I really feel that family ties are binding. I was so fortunate to grow up with a huge network of family around me that I knew loved me just for me. And I see the same things happening for my kids. Does that mean we always get along? No. But we still get together every sunday night for dinner! And I have a great support network for me and my kids that I know will always be there...even in the middle of the night...or for extended weeks if needed.

That being said; sometimes it's just not possible. And then you have to create that network for yourselves. I think it's just easier with family.

Your kids are going to do just fine no matter what. You and Bill seem to provide a wonderful, loving home with lots of good friends and great visits from family. That's what really matters.

Anonymous said...

I often think about the same thing. In our 20's we tried so hard to be independent of our families, now, in our 30's, we see the benefits for our children to know they are loved by the extended family and to share memories with grandparents...because at the end of life, it's really your family who is the constant. In an ideal world (for me), the grandparents would have a condo nearby and could spend a few months at a time in the same city...;)

No Mommy Brain said...

cora - health is a factor for us too. i know my mom's alzheimer's will prompt some sort of major shake up eventually i'm just not sure what or when. is sooner better than later or...? actually, that's a little too stressful to think about at the moment. :)

halie - you probably don't know this but i've been coveting your family situation since high school. i was leaving the sloan's house on thanksgiving one year and drove past your whole family playing football in the front yard. even at 16 i was like, "yes! that's what thanksgiving should be like!" you guys set the bar way up high.

heather, you just crack me up.

Celina said...

I know how you feel, Maggie. I've lived away from my dad since I was 7, grandparents before that. Left for college at 18 and haven't lived near family since except for a short stint when I moved out to Hawaii and my brother and his family were here. They're gone now and I'm farther from family than I've ever been. But Hawaii is just so beautiful, I don't think I could live anywhere else. And especially out here, where so many people are away from their families, friends do become family. I could never see myself moving back to Reno--there's just nothing there for me except my mom and some friends. I guess it just depends on what one's priorities are. For me, it's important to be surrounded by nature and like-minded people, which I have out here...Plus, I can always visit the mainland.