It broke my heart to say goodbye to them outside the terminal at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International airport. B was strapped in to his car seat, blue monster-truck ("Mocky truck! Blue one!") from the Easter bunny in hand, asking for a hug. (I gave him three. After each one he sang, "kiss too!" but I couldn't make out the words. I finally deciphered them and planted a slobbery kiss on his cheek.)
He was full of language and pride and still that unrelenting joy and awe at the world. Calling me Auntie and taking me by the hand to see the landscape through his eyes.
We blew bubbles and picked up rocks. We played with the dogs and baked my great-grandmother's caramel rolls (his great-great-grandmother's!). We read books and more books. Mostly about firemen, firetrucks, race cars, and bugs, although Curious George did make a few cameo appearances, too.
On the day I arrived, we stopped at the library to refresh the pile of books his parents had been reading to him. We filled a tote bag with the books, and from then on B would drag it through the house (it was much too heavy for him to carry) and announce "I got books!" any time there was a lull in action.
He says please after EVERY request, even when whining. (The first morning I was there he started the day with, "Need waffles please, momma." The second day was, "Need candy please, momma." By day four he greeted the day with: "Need turkey sandwich please, momma.")
He loves colors and numbers and letters and describing the world. He loves lining up his cars and driving around his dump trucks. He's smitten with announcing that things are broken, and turning them over to commence repair.
On the drive home from the airport, he identified something purple. And then I began a game: What else is purple? We named purple things (mostly his mother and I): grapes, wine, plums, blackberries, heather flowers, bruises, etc. And thereafter he's been saying, "Let's play game, momma."
When I got my suitcase out to pack to go home, B said, "What doing, Auntie?" and I told him I was packing to leave. He squealed with delight and said, "I got case too!" and ran to his room. Moments later he emerged with his suitcase, a backpack with an extend-able handle and wheels.
How could I say goodbye to this?
And then there was baby A. At just three months old, the world is already spinning around her tiny bubbling smile. She is all tongue and grunt and kick; snuggle and suck and sing. And some crying too. But mostly just snuggle and grin.
And then, of course, my sister. Beautiful mother to B & A, awesome wife to a man suffering through colon cancer treatment, and dear friend. A woman who knows my history and gets it on a gut level in a way no one else can. Someone my heart literally aches for when I can't see her often enough.
Seeing her in her element--parenting, care taking, homemaking, baking, exercising, wiping twelve muddy dog paws, and living--was lovely. Exhausting too, but lovely most of all.
So! Thanks, Mom and Dad, for buying the ticket that made 14 possible.