As a senior in high school, I knew that going to college meant being away from my parents and four younger siblings. Very, very far away. (9,500 miles, to be exact - a 24-hour flight away.)
My family was living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and I was going to go to school in Ohio in the States. During a college-prep night in the spring of my senior year, a few tears started rolling down my cheeks. The tears quickly turned into obvious, albeit quiet, crying. My mom patted my back, understandingly. She assumed I was crying because I'd be sad to leave my boyfriend.
The truth was, which I never told my mother, it was actually the thought of really, truly, finally leaving my family that brought me to tears. No more living at home, no more siblings around, no more familiarity and cozy family life. No more laughing at Mom with my sisters when she insisted we sing along to her praise and worship CD, no more sleep-overs with younger siblings sneaking into my room at night, no more lazy Sundays spent with my family, no more of any of it.
I saw my family three times a year, and would cry every time I brought them to the airport to say goodbye for four more months.
This went on for three years while I was in college. And while I relished how independent I was, how much I grew as a result, and how wonderful it was to have such an exotic home to visit, it never got easier to be apart.
Two-and-a-half years ago, they moved back to the US, and it was surreal. My family was within driving distance. Year round. I knew then that I would never take my family for granted again, as downright corny as that sounds.
Spending six glorious, lazy days in the company of my parents and siblings (and getting to have Mike spend more time with the people I love) has been fabulous - with Wii tournaments, cooking and enjoying a gourmet five-course dinner, hours of Friends Scene It, piling all of us into the mini-van, late night snacking, and being around to see my youngest sister and brother grow up.
I will never taken being around my family for granted. And I'm not sure when it will lose its luster - because it sure hasn't yet.