How often have I desired to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…
Of course I love the days when they come back. When dark drive floods with headlights, tired travelers droop to baggage claim and I leap up to greet them bright-eyed, arms as wide as grin. Soft tears springing right behind: You’re home! I reach to pull them near and laugh a muffled welcome into collars, fall into the hug I’ve held in dreams, remembering panged when phone would ring from far away, quick update between worlds and then goodbye, talk soon, take care – empty that gnaws and grows each time they leave. When they were young, my wings arched wide enough to hold them, stretch around their needs, protect, provide, make home. But then they grew. I wanted them to scurry off and run into the world just as I hoped. And yet I never thought they’d drift so far. Years went by when they did not return, work or duty called, and travel hassles at the holidays. I know it’s life, I understand. Still, one big brood under my roof is best: Clucking, ruffling feathers (family after all) the way I always dream. Warmth of close reminding love resides in flesh and bone. Gathering is work. You’d never guess the squeezing of the schedule to make time and space for cooking, cleaning, organizing and awaiting, readying return. And stretching of the heart, too wide enough to let back in. Last night as I tucked blankets into corners, smoothed the sheets for now-guests in their childhood beds, I thought of birds who pluck their feathers to line soft their babies’ nest. Always it is myself I give to draw them home, my loves that wander wide then circle back to tell me wisdom of the world I’ve always known.