May 24, 2016
When I picture myself as a mother, I see my children surrounded by family. I envision my dad teaching his grandkids how to swim in the ocean, and my mom collecting seashells with them along the South Jersey shore. I see my sisters as aunts, pushing a stroller along the Philadelphia sidewalks; I see cousins playing together, becoming lifelong friends. This was how I was raised: with more than 30 first cousins, nearly two dozen aunts and uncles and my grandparents just a drive away. I always hoped for the same for my children.
I never expected to move far away from the Philadelphia area, but when I was engaged and married, my husband’s job required us to live in the Midwest. I traveled often from Wisconsin back to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, partly because I was still running my public relations consultancy in Philadelphia, and mostly because I couldn’t stand to be away from my family and friends for too long. In 2014, I flew nearly 100,000 miles. Eventually, I decided that my frequent traveling had to stop, not only for my sanity but also because we wanted to start a family. We moved again to the suburbs of St. Louis late last year, and I began to nest.
When we were married, Ryan promised me that one day we would live on the East Coast. He knew how important it was to me to return to the Northeast and agreed that it would be very good for our children to be raised close to family. After relocating to Missouri this winter, I was a little sad that we would start our family without any relatives within a 1,000-mile radius, but I will always support my hardworking husband and his career. As the song goes, home is wherever I’m with him.
My family and I resolved long ago to find a way to spend as much time together as possible despite our distance. This desire heightened when I found out I was expecting. My parents spent a week with us over Easter in St. Louis, getting accustomed to their new home away from home where their grandson would be born. My mom made plans to spend a month with us once the baby arrived. My father, sisters, in-laws, cousins, friends and aunts all said they would make the trip this fall. We planned how to keep our connection tight, so our little boy would know the closeness of our family.
All the visions I had for my baby are now becoming a reality. Not only will my husband and I benefit from a supportive network of family and friends to help us as we welcome our first child, but our son will get to experience the joy of growing up near family. Instead of getting to know my parents over FaceTime, he’ll know their loving touch. Instead of missing cousins’ birthday parties, he will be there for the cake and candles. I hope that his childhood in New Jersey will also provide him with an appreciation for the finer things in life provided by the Garden State: Bruce Springsteen; white, sandy beaches; and Jersey produce.
Memorial Day weekend will be extra special this year because it will be my homecoming. There are no words to express my gratitude for this move and for the ability to have my baby so close to family. I am most grateful for the gift of sharing my life with my exceptional husband, who made it all possible.