This afternoon I walked my Mum to her departure gate at Calgary airport. As always, I held back the tears as I hugged and kissed her goodbye, and walked away with my two little boys, not sure when I'd next see her again.
"Where's Nana?" Matthew asked, a few moments later in the car.
"She's on the airplane." I explained. "Going home to see Grandad."
"Oh." He said, thoughtfully, looking up to the sky.
At times like this, the distance between us is measurable not by miles or kilometers, but by the enormous gap that unfolds between us again as we say our goodbyes.
We'll return to our phone calls, our skype calls, our emails, our photograph exchanges. But it's not the same as sitting together in the kitchen, chatting about random events and imparting our opinions on politics / the weather / the price of apples over coffee.
The challenges of being away from family (especially those you genuinely get on with) are huge. In some ways, it doesn't make sense - to move away from the core you've grown up with, to start a new life alone, to raise a family in strange territory. And yet so, so many of us do it. We move to other cities, other countries, other continents. And we get on with it.
As is often the case during Mum's visits, I found myself talking about the reasons I moved to Canada. And how, when I left, the sadness I felt about leaving my family was counterbalanced with the excitement of my new life in this foreign, exciting place where everyone wore cowboy hats and drove Hummers (what the hell was I thinking?) (also, this is truly not the case, I swear).
After a few years of getting into the swing of living in North America - existing as two young, childless, spontaneous people with plenty of cash and more than enough ways to spend it, we had kids. And everything changed. Suddenly I realized what it really meant to be away from my family.
The trips they made over here, after I had my kids, were fantastic. But when they weren't here, when I was having a bad day following a bad night, when I was at the end of my rope, when I hadn't showered for four days straight, or when I just wanted to see a friendly face, I couldn't call my Mum or Dad or brother on the phone and ask them to pop over for an hour.
So many times I've questioned whether I did the right thing, moving here, away from my family. But, by the time we had our kids, I'd fallen in love with our life here. The house, city, friends, lifestyle, still, to this day, make me grateful to be here. This is home, now. But, without my family, it's still hard.