I have joined a troupe of millions of others: those of us who have Flown The Nest. Sure, sure, this isn't news. I've been far from the Midwest, absent of the daily comforts of my truest true home,  for many moons. Seasons have blossomed and gone dormant. It's not often that I get a taste of home, though it does happen. The allure of this Vermont dairy goat farm is enough to bring our Ohio family + friends our way. Likewise, I remain prepared on a moment's notice for the chance to head westward — straight into my grandma's arms, directly onto my parents leather sofa, or swiftly into my mama-in-law's garden. To convene with any of our seven siblings over food + shared memories of childhood; honestly, is there anything so good? Rejoining physically with our two families is a desire that all but consumes Mark's and my thoughts. Farming together in Vermont is one step along the way to our enormous dream of creating a haven of animal + earth where we all live. Yes, all of us. A family compound, not unlike the sort that still exist the world over. While we work towards that someday reality, we (try to) accept the necessary distance and give thanks to God for the occasions when we are reunited. Reunited like we just were with my mama, who spent four blissful days with us. How to speak of the joy to be found when mama comes to town . . . 

I have written plenty about my mom, the undisputed queen of my heart. And still it is not enough. I could share a recipe for a cake or write about the farm, but all I want to write about is my love for the woman who raised me. Do you know this feeling? Is there someone, or many someones, in your life for whom you are eternally thankful? From the moment I picked her up at the airport, we resumed wherever it was we had left off. Over the course of four days, I learned about all the happenings of our extended family. We baked a rhubarb + black raspberry tart, plus an almond raspberry cake, and we ate a whole bag of jolly ranchers . . . for good measure. She cooked potato soup + her impossibly good buttered rolls to share with our friends. Every morning we'd have tea and coffee with broccoli + cheese omelettes that I'll never be able to make as well as her. Our last supper together was a pork roast from one of the farm's pigs, along with heaps of homemade sauerkraut. For us spoonful-of-peanut-butter-on-the-way-out-the-door folks, these four days of home-cooked goodness were divine. But vying for my favorite part was the afternoon where mama and I curled up on the couch and watched The Man from Snowy River while it snowed outside the windows. Several nights we prayed the Rosary together, a blessed experience of mother and daughter and Mary that my words could not possibly illustrate. She even woke at 5:00 a.m. to milk the goats with us! No moments of potential togetherness went missed.

She left traces of herself everywhere, as she is oft to do. She and I share a love of gift giving, so when she wanted to gift Mark and I a vintage copper skillet, we lovingly accepted with the knowledge that it will become a family heirloom. Now each time I use it, I think of her visit. I picked out a vintage chrome toaster while out and about with her that we put to use straight away with butter + jam toast. Similarly, when I look at the handstitched clementine quilt at the foot of our bed, it can almost feel as though she is still here with us. Almost. These are just objects, true, but they are objects with special meaning. I would be remiss if I did not praise my incredible husband, who went so far as to sleep on the couch so that his mother-in-law could sleep in our bed. In his words, "we all just really took care of each other." His love of sharing can stop me in my tracks. But, then again, we're dreaming and working towards a family compound, so togetherness is non-negotiable.

It feels important to chronicle the visit, a visit that we desperately desired and were divinely afforded. But I also write this with the hope that it sparks in you a keen appreciation for the ones you love, be them near or far. It's never going to be a bad idea to tell them so, or to hug them tightly.