BEFORE HE EVEN SHED his winter coat, before he was barely inside the kitchen, I stretched on my tiptoes to wrap my lanky son in a tight hug. I held on, lingering, imprinting this homecoming moment upon my memory. My voice quivered and joyful tears threatened. Nearly a year has passed since I’ve seen Caleb and that time lapse showed in my overwhelming emotions.
I feel fortunate that he even got here from Indianapolis given the air travel mess resulting in thousands of canceled flights, thousands of stranded travelers and luggage stacking up in airports across the country. Too many families missed Christmas together and many people are now struggling to find flights home.
Weather delayed Caleb’s Minnesota homecoming, too, with his original Thursday evening direct flight canceled due to the winter storm. He would miss Christmas with us. But he rebooked and landed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday evening, albeit after a delayed flight. His luggage, however, was missing. Delta delivered it to our Faribault home early Tuesday evening. His bag had never been unloaded from the plane and ended up back in Indiana. We all felt grateful for Delta’s prompt attention to finding his luggage.
I had to wait until around noon Tuesday to see Caleb. His oldest sister, who lives a 25-minute drive from MSP, picked her brother up and he stayed overnight in Lakeville. I wanted the siblings to have some time together without the parents. They all arrived in Faribault for a belated Christmas celebration, minus our other daughter and her husband from Madison, Wisconsin, who were unable to join us.
Oh, the hugs upon everyone’s arrival. An emotional hug for Caleb. Then hugs for the grandkids and my daughter and her husband. Love filled our house as we sat down to a meal of Chicken Wild Rice Hotdish, homemade garlic cheese bread and salad. My heart overflowed with love and gratitude for this time together. I don’t take having my family here for granted.
As I reflect on our gathering yesterday, I think of how my granddaughter sneaked up on her Uncle Caleb to tickle the bottoms of his feet, after I suggested she do so. He didn’t even show outward annoyance as he does with me if I do the same. I think of my almost 4-year-old grandson, Isaac, who snuggled on my lap under a fleece throw and how his sister, Isabelle, scrambled next to us. I think of Randy on the floor beside Isaac who’d just opened his new markers and a packet of white printer paper. Both were on his Christmas wish list. He wrote the entire alphabet on 13 sheets of paper, one capital letter on each side. I think of Amber, Marc, Caleb and I sitting on the floor, playing the kid version of the board game Ticket to Ride. (I recall all the Sunday afternoons the kids sprawled with Randy in the same spot playing Monopoly or reading the comics.) I think of Isabelle playing with her uncle’s roaring toy dinosaurs, retrieved from a tote in the basement. They joined her new roaring dinosaur. It was like a flashback in time, when Caleb was still a boy.
Time passes. Life changes. Loved ones move away. But love remains. Strong. Enduring. And in the moment of homecoming, love overflows.
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling