“Mom, it’s time to check in.”

She popped up from her perch where she’d been watching Briar paint and went to our computer to check in at Southwest.com. The brush in Briar’s hand, gooey and perilously close to dropping in all its aqua glory to the floor, hovered over the table.

“Where’d Gram go?” She asked as she looked up from her project and scanned the room.

The thought of explaining to her that Gram was confirming her seat on a flight home, a place thousands of miles from where we live, was simply unbearable. Already Briar has been spontaneously declaring (and pleading) that my mom and Abigail not go home. Ever. The finality of the mechanical hum from the other room as their boarding passes printed pressed down upon my heart.

Just as I mustered the courage to begin a conversation Briar asked for a new color of paint, which I all too gleefully dashed to the cupboard for. Anything to delay the inevitable. One of her ringlets, which seem to grow by the minute, was laced with cadet blue paint. Her cheek too, bore the trace of a passing brush, bright and yellow against her pale skin. She looked like Sean sitting there at the table, sleeves rolled up face set in concentration.

Sean. He and I are the cause for this. The birds and the bees conversation, though I am sure difficult in its own right, has nothing on this dilemma of distance and love and family. Hailing from opposite sides of the country, meeting improbably at a theatre festival in the Berkshires and then settling down in upstate New York, we created a maelstrom of hellos and goodbyes. Parents became grandparents, daughter became wife, my night became their day, and time became scarce.

Gram is going home. No more full days in the garden, no more mini-gourmet feasts of organic blueberries and wholesome baked goods. She’s taking Abigail with her, she who hung the moon. The sheer intensity of worship in those wide blue eyes makes me gasp. Hours have been passed simply waiting for Abigail – patiently sitting alongside her bed near dawn, standing behind a closed bathroom door or staring up in awe.

“Honey, Gram and Ab are going back home tomorrow,” I said as straightforward as I could.

“They come back tomorrow.”

“No honey, they’re going home and won’t be back for awhile,” I said.

“Maybe we can put some macaroni in a bag and take it to Seattle and Gram’s house.”

Two Wednesdays bookending a week of laughter and love have me wishing the distance weren’t so great. But there it is: East Coast/West Coast. A cross country flight with two kids under two, a small business to run, jobs and relationships. I don’t want to lie to her, don’t want to promise that soon we’ll go. All she knows is Gram and Abbie, and a kind of love that makes me ache.

This morning I’ll drive them to the airport, leaving Briar and Avery with Jen. The tightening has already begun in my own throat and past experience tells me it will only get worse. I am sure that as the trees whir by and I contemplate this next parental milestone of explaining the pain of loving people from far away, I’ll hope that somehow the gentle mist of innocence will give me one last reprieve. One more chance to whisper, “Soon,” and have it be enough.