Tonight my brother Mavis said something that really hit me. He said, "Tonight all four of us are sleeping here, but tomorrow night it's just me."
It's true. Tonight is the last night for a while when all four kids are home at once. Tomorrow night I'll be in my apartment in the Heights, Straight Man will be in YU, and Trademark will be on the plane to her year in Israel.
It's funny - when I went to my year in Israel, I was leaving a completely different kind of house behind. I'm the oldest, so everyone was still at home while I was away. I was incredibly homesick for months after I left, and it would get worse when I went to different families for chagim and Shabbos. We have many friends in Israel who used to live in my community and although I loved going to them for Shabbos, and though going there gave me some of that family feeling that I didn't have at school, I would feel even more homesick in some ways. There was family life going on around me, but I wasn't part of it. I felt somehow...outside. I would be reminded of my own family and how I wasn't there. I would get jealous of the siblings bantering with each other and play-wrestling. I would feel this dull ache that seemed like it would only get soothed by going over to my own little brother and punching him in the shoulder or having my own sister tell me how to wear my clothes. What was worse - I knew this sort of thing was still going on at my house. It's just that it was going on without me. A whole year of sibling camaraderie went by, a whole year of everyone in my family growing, both physically and as people. A time when I called home one day and an unrecognizable male voice answered who turned out to be my brother.
I remember being jealous of the British girls because it was so easy for them to go home - only a five hour flight! Compared to ten or eleven hours, that felt like nothing! Like flying from New York to California! Both New York and California felt equally like home at those times, even though I'd never even been to California. I felt like if I could at least be in the same country as my family, I'd feel better. I never got homesick in camp. I wasn't the homesick kind, I thought. But it was this feeling that my family was so far away, that I couldn't even call them any hour of the day I wanted because sometimes it was the middle of the night for them.
I know how Trademark feels when she does things like beg me to keep her updated on all my dating adventures.
"But, Trademark, going on one date with a guy is not that exciting."
"Okay, but if you start going on a few dates, you have to tell me!"
One time when I was in Israel, I called home and was so upset that I asked my mother to just tell me what they all were doing. She described what they were having for dinner and how everyone was sitting around the table...
In some ways, Trademark is leaving behind a different kind of house. We're not all going to be sitting around the table on a random weeknight. Though Straight Man and I are not too far away, we're not really living at home anymore either - especially me. Most of the time, it's just going to be my parents and Mavis. And what if Mavis goes away for Shabbos?
My family is at the point in our collective family life where everyone is off doing his or her own thing. It's not one person away and everyone else still in the status quo as far as home life. It's everyone coming and going at various frequencies.
More than ever before in my house, there was a lot of packing and moving going on this summer. For me, I'm really looking forward to having Straight Man live in the same city as me. For a while, we were hardly in the same country. I know we probably won't see each other a lot - especially as he's on a rigorous YU schedule, but it's nice to know he's there, all the same.
For Trademark - I hope she has a spectacular year in Israel, whatever kind of year it turns out to be. And I will miss her a lot. Our house is going to get a lot...quieter...
And for Mavis - He should enjoy having the house to himself, and everything that comes with it. :)
So tonight there are six people in this house. Tomorrow night, there will be three.
...My family is growing up.