The first one:
On our last day, I got to make an airport run to pick up a close family member. This is somebody I have picked up at the airport maybe a million times... well, at least once a year. Anyway, we have a regular routine. I have a regular parking spot. So I drove to the airport, parked, went in, waved and met and hugged her.
And as we walked out to the car, she said, "I never thought this would happen again: you picking me up at the airport in Toronto."
I admit, I thought I'd never have that chance again either.
The second one:
Sitting with a close family member (not the same close family member) at her kitchen table. Chatting, catching up on each other's lives, with perhaps an unspoken undercurrent of "hurry, this moment won't last forever," but trying not to consciously rush, which would ruin the moment. Mainly, it just felt like a regular thing, like the same thing we have done often over the last very-many years.
And just in the course of catching me up on her life, she said, "While you were away..."
While I was away.
Ouch. It wasn't like I went to camp... we moved here, started working, sent the kids to school. To me, that's not away, it's just - being me, somewhere else. But to her, it absolutely was "away." A continent away; an ocean away.
The new ordinary
I think these moments were so sad because in both cases, they were just ordinary moments - nothing special at all.
And in their ordinariness, they were a surreal echo of the life I lived there for many, many years.
(I also went out for coffee with somebody I didn't normally socialize with one-on-one, and that didn't feel weird or sad at all. Because it wasn't ordinary, like these two moments were.)
Despite their tantalizing familiarity, moments like these are the farthest thing from ordinary now.
This is the new ordinary.
Moments like these - glimpses of the half-fantastical Narnia that is the life we left behind in Toronto (or is it Israel that's Narnia in this analogy???) - drive home how strange and new our Israeli life still feels; how cozy and reassuring it can be to sink back into our old lives.
In the end, neither Toronto nor Israel is Narnia. In the Narnia books, the children could be gone a decade and return home with only a second having passed. In real life, we're all growing and changing, living and dying. The Toronto we left behind on Monday is not the Toronto we'll return to, God willing, next summer (for a real vacation, this time).
But how strange it is to leave the people we love behind, missing us, in some sense waiting alone, whether at the airport or at their kitchen table, even as their daily lives move on without us.
Fleeting and precious
Did you notice the picture at the top? That's YM, 19, playing with the 2 younger kids at the Legoland Discovery Centre where we went last Friday. Another very ordinary moment - one that probably won't happen again for a while. And I think we all knew that; last year at this time, he wouldn't have deigned to hang out with his mommy and the kiddies for the day.
(He actually got out of bed before noon!)
If there is a plus, that is probably it - that we all acknowledge and appreciate the fleeting preciousness of the time we have together.
Sure, people talk about this a lot, but when you're close together, it's tough to remember that no matter what you do, no matter where you live, your moments together are numbered. When that number is a big number, or seems that way, I guess it doesn't matter so much.
So that's the payoff, if you look for it. Living each conversation, each airport pickup, each play centre, each carefree morning in Starbucks or Value Village, each barbecue, hanging out around the wading pool in the grassy backyard of the parental home base, as if it were your last.
Even as you hope, of course, that there are many more to come.