When they left Connecticut in a car packed to the brim with the rest of what they owned, it was raining. It was raining in Tennessee when they slept under trees. It was lightening in Arkansas when they slept by the lake. It was finally sunny in Oklahoma, and then poured in New Mexico when at last they turned right and headed north instead of west. And then it was straight north for hundreds of miles and backtrack a little east until they almost hit the cold northern waters of Superior. They went over the bridge, through the town, beyond the fields and took a right on Red Pine and drove up our driveway- then they stopped. And they got out. And they are here.
My twin sister, Meredith, and her husband Ricky are finally here. And not here to visit. Here to live.
When I told people that my sister was upheaving her whole life, career, friendships and family to move across the country to live near me, there was some confusion. Is she moving for a job? No. Is she moving because she needs help? No. Is she moving because you need help? No. Is she moving because she’s unhappy? No. In fact it doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. I’m the first to admit it. Meredith and Ricky left a life in New England they love, with full careers and footprints in hometowns to come to Packer land, cheese head country where we do strange things like make hot dishes, go outside in winter and have graduation parties in our garage.
Move to Wisconsin. I had asked her for years as I lived my life wiping baby faces and carrying toddlers on my hips, hundreds of miles away from all of my family who lived in Connecticut. No, she would say with certainty, my life is here. And so it was. College, grad school, career. But she would always show up. With every baby, with every year, in long winters or to celebrate spring. And then one day Meredith called me. I decided to move there, she said. I was floored. Then she said this: If life doesn’t change, we will only see each other once or maybe twice a year for the rest of our lives. Life is too short to see each other once a year for the rest of our lives. We have one life and we should spend it together.
And when Meredith says something. She means it. Her word has always been good, and I believed her. Meredith and Ricky got engaged and then married. Then they spent a year lining up the ducks- finances, jobs. It became clear that it was a horrible time to move across the country. There was not a natural transition, there was not an easy way out. So they just forged one. There will never be a good time to say goodbye to what you love. So instead of waiting for forever, Meredith and Ricky waited for about a year, then they packed up college t-shirts, their dog, their cast iron skillet, their business suits, ties and high heeled shoes. They packed up Grandma’s rocking chair, the china, the antique mirror and their laser jet printer. And they headed west. To me.
When people ask if she is moving here just for me I say yes. But really we know better. She is moving here for me, and my family. And our family. And these kids that are blood. She is moving here because we know deep that nothing last forever. That life is as brilliant and as short as a flash of light. That life is most beautiful when lived next to those that share your soul. Because skype, facetime, email and cellphones aren’t enough even now in this century to trump the ache when your sister is sad and the miles are long. Or if there is a reason to celebrate new babies or new jobs and the plane tickets are too expensive. Life apart is too expensive. Life together is worth the cost.
So yesterday they showed up in our driveway. A piece of my birth family right next to my birthed family. This is family I tell my children. These sacrifices and this joy and this optimism in the future. I point to their aunt and uncle and tell my children that the bravest sometimes risk it all to begin again. And if we share the past we share the future. I watch my sister hold my daughter and know that goodbyes are over for now. For this long season, we will all be here, together. And because it is impossible to say thank you for such a beautiful, soul filling gift, we just say welcome. Over and over to my brother in law, to my sister, and even in my morning prayer. Welcome, welcome, welcome, I whisper in gratitude. I am so happy you are here.