All My Bags are Packed

During the next two weeks I’ll pack my suitcases with Christmas
gifts, my clothes and a few jars of minced garlic. Then, with my
wiener dog in tow, I’ll leave Gilroy and head to Chicago.
During the next two weeks I’ll pack my suitcases with Christmas gifts, my clothes and a few jars of minced garlic. Then, with my wiener dog in tow, I’ll leave Gilroy and head to Chicago.

Until my husband, Mark, returns from Iraq in May, I’ll be working on my master’s degree and spending some time with his side of the family.

Leaving my parents has always been difficult for me. I used to tear up for the first 30 minutes of my drive back to University of California, Chico, after a long weekend home. Since moving to Tennessee last year, the return flights after visits to Gilroy often pass with a lump in my throat.

What has made these past four months at home so special, and bittersweet at the same time, is knowing I will never return to Gilroy – or California, for that matter – for more than a long weekend.

In the next year, my husband is planning to make the transition from the United States Air Force back into civilian life, and when he does, we’ll make our home permanently in the Chicago area.

It was a decision that was made after months of debate and finally compromise on both sides. The hardest part of leaving for good is realizing that all of the memories I have with my parents are now just that: memories.

I’ll miss stopping by my dad’s for salmon and rice on the way home from work.

I’ll miss laughing until 1am the night before Thanksgiving with my mom because I burnt the heck out of the pumpkin pies.

From now on, these experiences will be limited to short visits; they’ll no longer be weekly occurrences.

Another thing I still haven’t completely come to terms with is that I won’t be here in Gilroy, surrounded by my family and friends, when it comes time for my husband and I to start our own family.

My kids will be stuck wondering what I’m talking about when I tell them about the horse swings that used to entertain us for hours in Miller Park.

And my parents won’t be cheering them on at every Little League game, school choir concert and class play the way grandparents did.

This town is unique because of the closeness of the families who reside here. Mothers and daughters live down the street from one another, and people who were best friends in high school now leisurely walk down Miller Avenue with their babies in strollers.

There are pros and cons when it comes to living in a small town.

You can’t catch a major league baseball game down the road, and there aren’t any high-rise apartments with breathtaking views. But there is a feeling of support and family in this community that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Although this isn’t my last column just yet, I just want to say how grateful I am for the love and support I’ve received since flying home in August.

For me, the holidays have always been a time to give thanks for the things you have in your life.

This year hasn’t been the easiest for me, with my husband being deployed and the loss of my sister-in-law, Jane.

But this community has comforted me in more ways than one.

E-mails from strangers offering well wishes and prayers and the comfort of simply seeing familiar faces in town has given me many reasons to be thankful.

The adage that you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone couldn’t be more true as I prepare to leave my hometown once again.

Happy holidays, and thank you for your kindness.

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