It's a quiet evening at home. A fire crackles in the fireplace. I am sitting in the comfy chair, jumping up every time we need another log. My husband has gone to run some errands and bring back food. My Wonderful Beautiful Smart Daughter is sitting on the couch, with her three brothers and Skater Boy piled around her. Boy in Black is leaning against her shoulder, his head snuggled against hers, his long hair in his eyes; Shaggy Hair Boy, leaning on her other shoulder, is playing with her cell phone, which he gets to use during the next four months while she is overseas.
Music is playing from one of the laptops; they are joking and laughing. The ringtone on my daughter's phone has long been Shaggy Hair Boy's voice saying, over and over again, in an obnoxious way, "Are you there? Pick up the phone! Are you there? Pick up the phone!" My daughter is saying that she might actually miss that voice. Boy in Black does not even look up as he talks to his sister; he makes jokes in his sleepy, deep voice and his long arm stretches lazily across to pet the cat that is sleeping on Skater Boy's lap, but his body leans against her, even though she is about half his size. With-a-Why, perched on the arm of the couch, exchanges insults with Boy in Black.
We've got nothing special planned for the night, just the same familiar routine of hanging out in the living area, talking and doing nothing in particular. First Extra is on his way over. Blonde Niece already said her goodbye to her cousin before going off to visit her sisters this weekend. My husband returned from his errands to find that all spots near Beautiful Wonderful Smart Daughter were taken, so he squeezed onto the end of the couch by shifting With-a-Why. The boys are planning a late-night Ultimate Frisbee game with their new glow-in-the-dark frisbee. Philosophical Boy and Older Neighbor Boy are coming over, so it is likely we will have music.
Upstairs, in my daughter's tiny bedroom, are neat piles of folded clothing, everything she is planning to pack for her trip. Tomorrow, she will fit it all into the two suitcases we gave her for Christmas. And tonight, even while we are gathered near the fire, talking and laughing and listening to music, we are all thinking about that airline ticket, those suitcases, the goodbyes that none of us know how to say.