“I’m glad I have you back,” he whispers as he climbs into my lap, his four year old arms and legs contorting to snuggle in close. His brownish-blonde hair brushes against my cheek and I can smell the sand and water he was playing in less than an hour before. He has grown in the ten days since I have seen him, or perhaps his absence aged him in my mind. As he cuddles even closer I can feel his breath against my skin and his torso rising and falling as his breathing steadies. “I thought about you all the time,” he adds, glancing up to meet my gaze, a smile creeping across his face. And as I stare into his perfect blue eyes I realize he can never grasp the depth at which I missed him too.
Just hours earlier, my heart raced as we drove closer to meet them. They were unaware of my first glimpse of them, and I watched them walk by, smiling and chatting. Baby E’s eyes zeroed in on them and he began to grin, which turned quickly into a full body wiggle in an attempt to escape daddy’s arms to pursue them. But then they rounded a corner, and Baby E realized he was surrounded by strangers. His frantic looks became tears as he ran back to us. As we turned the corner, Big E was also in tears, having just been accidentally bumped by his sister’s toy, and as he stood there crying, we called their names.
C noticed us first and bounded over to us, throwing her arms around each of us and jabbering away about her adventures. Sulkily, Big E made his way over as well, needing comfort more than greeting, so I picked him up and held him close, convinced that he has gotten heavier. After our initial meeting, we went to lunch with my parents, my sister, and our little family, during which they sought our undivided attention.
We brought them to the beach on the way home, letting them wade in the water in the clothes they were wearing. Digging in the sand, pretending to swim in the shallows, and building sand castles ushered in our evening and by the time we made it home, they were hungry, exhausted, and happy.
I am exceedingly grateful to have my family together once again. The recent quiet has been replaced with the welcome sound of giggles, and feet running up and down the stairs. My previously clean kitchen bears witness to our house full of children, with half eaten sandwiches and half empty cups littering the table. And the room that sat dormant for ten long days, now holds the snores and heavy breathing of my two sweet, dear children that will never fully understand how much they were missed!