I do not know where to begin.
Maggie and James and Taylar arrived late last Thursday night.
Patrick and I met them, hugs were distributed and the immediate chattering made me realize that six months really isn't that long after all.
My children remembered who they were. And who they are and the eight of the kids played and hiked and leaped wildly off the broken down walls of the Hot Springs into the chilly waters of the Rio Grande.
OK, so it is a bit crazy having eight kids in one small house, but I hope you will believe me when I say that it was an orderly chaos, and not of the bad variety. We shared stories and made do and everyone was flexible and visitors helped wash lots of dishes.
I noticed that my children began to take pride in this region we have loved for their whole life as they shared their special places with our dear loved ones from Virginia. As we drove through the night from Midland to Alpine, I looked at the flatlands and smelled the natural gas, oil wells pumping away. The brushy creosote and lechugilla and cactus fill the fields with prickles. Entering the mountainous region, I think of the rolling Blue Ridge, the soft grasses and green trees and imagine that the kids must feel like they are on the moon. Or Mars. The Chihuahuan Desert is a long way from the Appalachian Trail, Toto.
Forty miles north of Alpine is a little rest stop, nestled in a hill, right where the flatland ends. Even though it was close to 1 o'clock in the morning, I pulled over, telling kids to pile out and look at the stars.
The stars at night are indeed big and bright, deep in the heart of Southwest Texas!
Voices, filled with delight, punctuated the clear, dry air, marvelling at the giant shooting stars who were welcoming the visitors to our dear new home.
Hearing Patrick and James argue over constellations warmed my heart deeply.
We packed in as much Texas as possible in one short visit. Walks around town. A movie in the Rangra theater. Drive to Big Bend National Park. Boquillas Canyon and the sand dune and rock skipping and the Hot Springs and swimming to Mexico and kite flying and Terlingua Ghost Town and Mexican food and very spicy salsa and an old broken down graveyard and Marfa lights and Fort Davis and Sul Ross Mountain.
It was painful saying goodbye.
But so very sweet.
We KNOW they are friends for life. And now they know what our cactus look like, and the jagged contour of our mountains, and the feel of the Rio Grande on a late January afternoon.
So we didn't butcher chickens or build bonfires. But many games of Uno and Monopoly and Marfa lights later, I think these kids know that miles do not mean the end of Real Friendship. I believe they know.
And I am so thankful.