We huddled on the sidewalk in front of our building smiling and trying to be strong, but the sorrow was already setting in. The driver got out of the van and lifted the suitcases into the trunk, pressing firmly on the door afterwards to make sure that the bags would stay put on the bumpy traffic-laden trip to the airport. The car doors stood open, waiting, and the radio drifted out to us as we tried to extend our goodbyes for as long as possible. Biet's Aunt Adi and cousin Michal had been with us for two weeks, and in that time had become an extension of our little family. And now the day had come to say farewell.
In these two weeks with my sister-in-law in our home, I came to know how truly lucky I am to have married into this Russian-Argentinean-Israeli tribe. Adi filled our home with love and compassion and laughter in a way that this apartment of ours hadn't ever seen. She bonded with Biet both as an Aunt and as a friend. She made my husband laugh in that teary-eyed out-of-breath belly-laugh kind of way that a little brother does with his big sister. She dressed and snuggled and rocked Lucien to his newborn heart's content. And she somehow began to fill that unspoken void in our family- that of having no living Grandmother's for Biet- by bringing with her the recipes and the flavors of her and Gaby's Mother and filling our home with both the spicy aromas of homemade empanadas and mountains of Matzah for passover.
We journeyed through the city with Adi, told family stories late into the night, cooked side by side in the kitchen, and laughed about this crazy adventure of raising babies. Biet fell madly in love with her Aunt, running to the couch each morning shrieking "Adi! Adi!", and wanting nothing more than to be at her side night and day. Between Adi and my two sisters, these children of mine have a winning line-up of awesome aunties, that's for sure. Her time with us went by too quickly, and before we knew it the time had come for her to leave.
On the sidewalk by their waiting car, I leaned in and hugged her as hard as I could. We both knew that this trip had been monumental. We both knew that after these two weeks, we no longer needed the "in-law" in reference to one another. We felt like sisters now, plain and simple. Biet planted kiss after kiss on her Auntie's face, understanding that she was leaving, but not knowing how far away she was headed. I stepped back with Biet as Gaby embraced his sister. He put his arms around her and held her close, and the tears began to fall down both of their cheeks. They spoke through their sobs in spanish and kissed one another's faces. Then they both wept harder, hardly breathing as they declared their love for each other, how proud they were of one another, and how much it would hurt to be continents apart. I stood back in silence, amazed at the depth and intensity of their relationship. In that moment I saw them not as my husband and sister-in-law, but as a brother and sister. And then I suddenly understood.
I understood what I had given Biet when I brought her brother into this world. I gazed down at my son and my daughter, in the very beginnings of their sibling relationship. And I looked up at Gaby and Adi and the culmination of their brother-sister bond over decades and across oceans. And I got it. I am so happy Biet and Lucien have each other, and I am so grateful for my family.
Farewell Adi, until next time.. we miss you dearly.