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“I am so excited I can’t get anything done. I just wander my apartment in anticipation.” I told a friend.

“Well of course you can’t!”

In a few short hours I’d be leaving for the airport to pick up my sister and her two oldest daughters, ages 9 and 7. These girls so dear to me I’d kill for them. I’d literally take on anyone, anywhere, any time and give anything for them. And they were coming to me on March 24, 2011.

Need a cab? No problem, we've got it.

True Beijingers, hailing a cab or as Peter Hessler calls it, "petting the invisible dog."

The anticipating, preparing, and planning on both sides finally culminating!  For them: Missing days of school, Dad taking off work to help with their sisters, Grandparents on standby, Mom flying internationally alone with children in the name of love and family and memories and FUN! On my side: kid friendly and familiar food, subway cards bought, bedding arranged, plans made, joy mounting.

After what felt the length of their flight, I saw them, having made it through customs and collected their bags. Those three familiar faces, one I’ve known almost as long as I’ve known my own, scanning the sea of dark hair, looking for me.  The car ride home –cultural lesson #1: no seatbelts in China (that’s a hard one for the rule follower and good news for the freer spirit)– a girl on each side, my sister in the front seat, turning and smiling at her daughters in China, flanking their aunt.

What a week it was.

At the end of their time I wrote:

The ladies are in the air now and should land in San Fran in about 2.5 hours. I’m off to bed and the apartment seems really quiet. Many people have asked me how I’m doing knowing that I’ll be very sad. I am sad, but I am also extremely satisfied; I feel like Star Mother’s Youngest Child after he returned to the heavens and his mom wanted to know all about his big adventure and he replied, ‘it was …. enough.’ I said to Elizabeth that I really couldn’t think of any way it could have been a better trip. She did point out that if each girl hadn’t vomited, that might have been the only thing. Point taken.

Today, one year later, on March 24th I’ll head to the airport again. This time, however, it is to board a plane and fly to visit colleagues.  I’m happy for a chance to go and see them. Really and truly. It’s better than sitting home all day. But this week I’ve been remembering the anticipation of last year and feeling a bit of a hole.

Elizabeth, sister, friend, mother, a year later and the waves of gratitude still wash over me. I love you.

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