“The tie that binds.”
“The family that eats together, stays together.”
When I was a young boy and our family vacationed to relatives’ homes (grandparents in California or aunts/uncles in Wisconsin and Texas), I remember getting a really big lump in the back of my throat when we left them. The visits were so good, so precious. I didn’t know how to quantify it at the time, but it was that familial closeness that I had missed, having grown up hundreds of miles away from any other relative.
I remember the feeling well, as if it were yesterday. It was sort of like the feeling of reaching the end of a fantastic novel — that gulping, sinking panic that if you dared stop reading those characters would cease to exist. And that would be a tragedy, since for the duration of the book they had their own flesh-and-blood existence. What I forgot to realize was that they did indeed go on in my imagination.
Thankfully, my family does persist though I am apart from them. The clearest positive to physical separation is that visits with them are all the sweeter. Now when I visit my family as an adult, I am filled with that same familiar, immeasurable joy. But when I leave them, I don’t have the lump in my throat. Instead, I take that joy with me and it propels me to the next anticipated visit.