This blog came to me in fits and bursts over the past month, and I’ve been itching to publish it. But it was never quite complete. I’d poured my heart onto the empty white space, and yet I felt like something was missing. When Laverne and I decided to do a 3-part series this summer, this idea resurfaced while we were brainstorming blog ideas. There was never a moment of hesitation as I pitched my idea: I had the words, could she provide the artwork? There are few people in the world I would trust with such a precious subject matter, and Laverne is at the top of the list. And so, with a full heart, here is part two of our summer series.
Excitement jitters just beneath my skin as we turn onto the curvy country road. The sun peeks through the tree limbs, and the horses in the pastures graze in the summer heat. Brian guides our car past farm houses and patches of forest, instantly knowing when to turn into the driveway. As many times as we’ve been here, I still don’t know which house is Jenna’s until we arrive.
Anxious for our day to begin, I leave bags and presents in the back seat and drag my husband to the back door. As soon as I step up onto the stoop, I see that she’s been waiting, and is as eager for our arrival as we are.
She wraps me into a one-armed hug, and it’s like no time has passed at all.
Bub peeks shyly from behind Jenna’s leg, and I know he’ll need a few minutes to adjust to new visitors. I crouch down to his level, keeping my distance, and reach out to ruffle his dark hair. “Hey, buddy,” I say quietly. Noting the graphic on his t-shirt and hoping to draw him out, I say, “Is that a puppy dog on your shirt?” He glances down, long lashes brushing round cheeks, then looks back up, a big grin on his face. “NO!” he says with authority. “Flower!” And he bounds into the kitchen with the excitement only a 2 year old can possess.
Brian and Jenna are sharing small talk about the weather, the drive, his schooling. I stand by quietly for a moment, fingers itching to hold Baby Girl. Jenna, sensing I’m there, hands me the baby without breaking the conversation. I welcome her weight with surprise. “Who’s a big girl?” I croon. I look at Jenna, eyebrows raised. “It’s only been 4 months! How can she already be this big??”
We settle in at Jenna’s big dining room table, making plans for the day, talking about all we’ve missed in the last few months.
In what feels like minutes, Bub gallops into the room and announces that he’s hungry. Jenna checks the clock and, just like that, it’s lunch time.
PBJ’s, fresh fruit, and strawberry daiquiri pie are served with a quiet efficiency. Bub eats enthusiastically, occasionally breaking into baby babble, and even serenading his grapes with a rousing rendition of “Old MacDonald.”
After lunch time comes nap time, and we decide to load the kiddies into the car and let them sleep while we take a quick road trip a few towns over to visit with another family member. No sooner are we out of the driveway than Bub and Baby Girl are snoozing away. Conversation turns to more adult topics: work and life, future plans, bills, mortgages.
And Buffy. Of course.
We arrive at our play date destination.
I disappear to grab my camera and as I walk back into the laughter-filled room, my eyes land on Brian. He’s holding Baby Girl, whispering something into her ear.
Inside, I weep from the pain of being unable to provide him with this in his own life. I push it down, swallow the lump in my throat, and paste a smile on my face. There is time for tears later.
Our two hour play date comes quickly to a close, and it’s time to load back into the car and head to dinner with Jenna’s mom and step-dad. Bub is talkative this time, and so we sing, and we count, and we make animal noises. I glance up into my visor mirror to see Jenna plant a kiss on a squirming, giggling Bub. I laugh.
Dinner feels like a party. We drink margaritas, we share salsa and stories.
I am simultaneously in the moment, and distracted by the beautiful baby sleeping in her car seat next to me. Bub sits across from me, eating his beans and rice with gusto. Jenna’s husband, Reid, is finally able to join in the fun after a long day at work.
Conversation turns to Brian, and questions are flying about his upcoming graduation, job prospects, what his future holds. I let their words fall away and turn my focus onto Baby Girl. Thinking no one is watching, I run my finger lightly over her little foot. I straighten her hair bow, and tuck a stray corner of blanket back into it’s rightful place. Just a moment. I wanted just a moment with her. And when it’s over, I rejoin the conversation.
And the evening rolls on.
As we emerge from the restaurant, the sun and moon are struggling for possession of the sky. It’s a three hour drive back to our house,
We drive Jenna and the kids back home. Gifts are exchanged, a few more pictures are taken, and it’s time to take our leave. I hug and kiss each child soundly, knowing they’ll have grown even more by the next time I get to visit. Brian and I fight over who hugs Jenna last. More waving, hugging, promises of future visits. And then it’s just the two of us again, heading back toward home.
Our headlights pierce the darkness and the tears I’ve fought all day finally come. I cry because my best friend lives so far away. I cry because I’m so happy that we got this time together, however brief.
It is nearing midnight when we get home. And still, I pull out the memory card from my camera, loading the pictures onto my computer screen. And Brian and I relive our day–all smiles and giggles and songs and love–before heading to bed.