Despite our similarities, there are obvious differences between us, too. As my family uproots to move to Australia, her family plants roots a little deeper in the Illinois soil. As we sell our house, she is adding onto hers. We have no pets. She has chickens, two cats, and a dog. Every time I pull into her driveway and walk in her door, I have the feeling of everything good about my childhood memories. Her home is comfortable, creative, and decorated with children's art and smiling faces all over the walls. Andi has created a true home in every sense of the word and it has become a gathering place for family and friends, so I know I'm not alone in my opinions. She loves deeply and is extremely loyal. Her sweet and content disposition is a beautiful contrast to my restlessness and minimalist tendencies.
Our children are best friends. I have never seen a relationship like the one between her oldest daughter and my son. They never argue and their personalities are a perfect compliment to each other. Silas loves to talk silly and Lilia loves to giggle. Russia may have given birth to Lilia, but my sister brought her into our family and gave my little boy a best friend. It is a continuous joy for me to witness the happiness they find in each other. Andi's youngest daughter Georgia and my daughter Morgan are almost exactly 1 year apart. Georgia is naturally grown up for her age and seems to understand how life works better than the average 5 year old. So, she is older and wiser than Morgan and teaches Morgan all the ways of the world. Morgan looks up to her and argues with her and loves her deeply. Then there is Caleb, Andi's oldest son. I feel bad that I waited so late to have children because Caleb didn't have a cousin to grow up with. Instead he gets to be the cool big kid that my children look up to and adore. He plays Nerf guns with them, wrestles, and helps. I couldn't ask for a better role model for my children. I say all of this to illustrate why we make such an effort to drive the hour and a half to see each other for an afternoon of play.
Tonight I am spending the last night at her house until we return. This is the last time that Silas will tell all the other kids stories about Godzilla before they fall asleep. It's the last time I will catch the little girls having a dance party in their nightgowns. It's the last time Andi will pour out her hospitality on my family, for a year.
We came here today to make a special present for our parents for Christmas. What started as a simple project ended up taking all day. As tired as we both were, we stayed up far to late talking, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Since the children came along, our talks are interrupted and far too infrequent, but with our move to Australia, they will have to be put on hold for a year. I will miss Andi and her family more than I even realize at the moment of writing this. I asked the girls to promise to stop eating and put books on their heads so they will not grow and stay just the way they are until we return. They giggled, but I cried a little inside knowing that I am going to miss out on their transformation and they will miss out on ours. I feel the weight of separating beloved cousins and sisters across an incredibly large ocean and different hemisphere, but I pray that the bonds will not be broken...just stretched in a way that will rebound even stronger when we return.