Running the Numbers on a Priceless Week

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Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Everyone knows the equation: the difficulty of a farewell is equal to the amount of love you have in your heart for person, times the number of miles that separates you, multiplied again by the quantity of time until you see each other again.

The result can easily move one to tears.

My sister friend Dawn just pulled away in her van full of four kids, heading back to the Sacramento area after their annual visit.  Throughout our 22-year friendship, that goodbye has never gotten easier.

As I write this, the din of quiet sadly tingles in my ears not unlike the feeling after a favorite concert just ended.   A strange calm is permeating our house as we enter the lonesome readjustment period.  Time to readjust to the reality that they are really gone and our To-Do list is in need of some attention.

My inbox is in the triple digits and I haven’t checked my voicemail in days.

Two friends, their eight kids, and one memorable week.

It was a glorious week. And by glorious, I mean eight kids in our 2,000-square-foot house. A week with no breaks from our children, orchestrating outings which each require breaking up fights about who is going to sit in which seat in the van, threatening kids not to move until we are finished applying sunscreen, packing snacks and lunches, finding enough towels, shoes, and sweatshirts. A week of non-stop laundry, loading and emptying the dishwasher, cooking, and yelling things like, “Who didn’t clear their plate?” Trying to figure out who has showered who still needs to brush their teeth, or where someone’s bathing suit was last seen.

Last weekend our two oldest boys played in a lacrosse tournament with their respective teams (Dawn’s son plays on a traveling team that flew down separately) and that added another layer of organization.

Dawn and I met in our freshman year in college and were roommates for three years. It was great fortune that brought us both four kids with the biggest age gap among them all being two years. With five boys and three girls, they all have someone to buddy up with.

We relish in each other’s joy, calm each other’s fears, bolster each other’s strengths, and generally just relate to each other’s plights.

Dawn is like ointment for all my mothering ailments. Every mom needs one phenomenal ally whose parenting style matches her own. Who lacks judgment. Who doesn’t flinch when you have Lucky Charms in your kitchen cupboard or cuss in front of your kids.

One would assume having Dawn’s brood in the house for a week is much more work for me, but I love her kids like my own and their visit is actually a break I look forward to every year.

It’s like bring-your-best-friend-to-work day all week for both of us.

All told, by week’s end, we ended up with eight tired and happy kids, two tired and happy moms, four smashed pennies for the collections, two containers of sunscreen emptied, 16 hours on the lacrosse fields, one injured shoulder in a sling, two bags of hand-me-down clothes exchanges, one ride in the lifeguard truck to find a missing 14-year-old (who actually was never missing, but wandered over a mile south down the beach while skimboarding, to find better waves)  an enormous stuffed dog won in a basketball shooting game (stuffed again, into the van, for the drive home), countless new memories and inside jokes, one teary goodbye, and, unfortunately… 470 miles between our front doors.

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