Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kids For Trade

Living away from family all these years is a bummer. Sadly, my kids hardly know their extended family. They have never had family birthday parties surrounded by aunts and uncles, proud grandparents and cousins to play with. I can count on one hand the number of times they have met Dave's parents or my grandfather, who happens to still be alive.

In contrast, I knew my paternal grandmother like I know my own mother. I spent weekends at her house growing up, and weeks at a time with her at her camp in New Hampshire. When I got older, and she got older, I called her just about every other day. I remember thinking that I would not be able to live without her when she died. But I made it through.

Living away from family all these years has opened the door to awesome opportunity. We have made friends with people that we love so much, and identify with so well, that they might as well be family. These are the people that we talk to every day through text or Facebook or have made the Godparents of our children. Their kids are our kids' best friends. We carry on relationships with these chosen few because we want to, not because blood relation and the branches of the family tree expect us to. They have probably spent more birthdays with my children than my own parents have which is both sad, and a blessing at the same time.

We met Lisa and John when we moved to Sicily in 2007. Coincidentally both of our families had been stationed in Maine at the same time but had never met. My friend Dina, who knew both of us, assured me that we would get along great if we ever crossed paths. In Italy we finally did cross paths and Dina was right.

Dave and I drove three hours east today meet up with Lisa who drove three hours west to meet us for a kid swap. Her kids Sarah, Hannah and Will are the same ages as my Evelyn, Lillian and Rowan and you couldn't imagine cousins who could get along better. I feel an overwhelming gratitude for the life we have been blessed with as a families serving in the Navy. I am honored that Lisa trusts us like family to take care of her kids for the week. I am thankful that my husband is at home to help me with the kids and that we can give Lisa a week off while her John is out to sea. 

So yes, living away from relatives is a bummer sometimes. I miss my friends back home, family and Dave's family too. But the distance the military has forced us to sustain has made us vulnerable-opening the pathway to new friendships that are as strong as family ties. 

  • Two weeks ago Austin drove 8 hours to Orlando to spend the weekend with his best friend Justin, a friend made during our tour in Italy. When we think of Justin living 8 hours away we think of that as close.
  • Last week Abby (Austin's girlfriend of two years who lives in Virginia) and the boys' friend Sarah came to visit for the week. They have visited us 3 times in 6 months. It may be a lot of miles but really Virginia's only a short flight away. I am certain they will remain lifelong family friends
  • Today Austin and Cal flew to Virginia for a few days to catch up with old friends. They called to say it was weird seeing new people living in our house and they didn't like it.
  • At the end of the week Austin and Cal are heading to New Hampshire and then Massachusetts to hike with my parents and have a family cookout at my Dad's beach house. My sister is arranging for the teenage kids of my high school friends to be there too. My kids don't see any of them often enough but when they do, they pick up as if they were never apart.
  • This week we are hosting the McGonagle kids. Next week our brood is headed to Lisa's house for another kid trade.
  • Phil and Amie, Rowan's Godparents, just got orders to Japan for the next two years. We are lucky enough to be stationed 30 minutes away from each other until January 2013.
All of these relationships are possible courtesy of the red, white and blue 
and years of serving in the US Navy!

Dave at Malcolm House's retirement ceremony.
Family vacation with the McGonagles, Outer Banks, NC, 2011.
Lily, Hannah, Sarah and Evelyn

My godmother (Great Aunt Elaine) with Rowan and Davey during a visit to Virginia, 2011.
Rowan and Will swimming in Sicily, Italy, 2009.

Landon's birthday stationed in Brunswick, Maine with the Brock boys, 2006.
Harrison, Liam, Ethan and Landon