Written by Stephanie Lundeen
I want to kick off this new year by thanking you, our readers. I’ve heard from several of you in the past few weeks, and your encouragement and appreciation rekindled the flame that had nearly burned out. Something about 2021 was deeply exhausting, taking its toll in unexpected ways. Enter that above-mentioned encouragement, and Danelle and I are pledging to post regularly (the goal is to post weekly) throughout 2022.
As we flipped the calendar to 2022, I reflected on how little has changed in our lives this year–other than the surprise snowstorms that brought a wonderful hush to the landscape and our lives between Christmas and New Year’s. But the rhythms of work and school and basketball practices go on as before.
Such was not the case a mere four years ago, when we turned our lives on end by moving out to the Seattle area after fifteen years in Chicagoland. Back then, we pulled ourselves up by the roots, stretching and straining several relationships in the process. And, perhaps inevitably, some of them broke.
As the kids adjusted to a new school and I searched for work, we ached for the friends and family who could no longer join us over the holidays or simply drop by for an evening.
The relationship that we were most keen to maintain was with Danelle. We had established a weekly cadence of seeing her: she would head up after work on Wednesdays (or was it Thursdays?) and–rather than make the two-hour trip back home–would usually stay overnight and take the train to work the following day. We’d get together on weekends too, for games or celebrations. She had worked hard to have a good relationship with each of the kids–including Dawn. I agonized over jeopardizing that closeness. What would it mean for the kids, especially the twins?
And what would it mean for Danelle? She was going through a lot at the time, and I felt so awful that we couldn’t be a support to her. We convinced her to come visit over the kids’ spring break, and the trip went by way too fast. We managed to go back to Chicago a few months later, in August, and once again the trip went by too fast.
During that first year apart, we tried to set up a regular video call with the kids, but it never quite worked out. Either something would come up for one of us, the internet wouldn’t work, or the kids simply wouldn’t cooperate. Which is maybe simply what comes of expecting kids to act like grown-ups.
Fortunately, my sister introduced me to Marco Polo, an app that let the kids and Danelle send video messages to each other. The kids would be silly and overdo it with emojis and filters, but at least they were communicating! I love, too, that it gives them a space together, without me having to mediate. And it continues to give Danelle’s mom a chance to read books to her grandchildren!
For the next three years, we got together in person as much as we could–which usually involved Danelle coming out to visit–and we used Marco Polo and phone calls. It never quite took the place of having Danelle over once or twice a week, but it was definitely the next best thing.