There were no tears shed when we dropped Jax off three weeks ago - only a blanket of sadness as we left town without him. In the back of everyone's mind we had Labor Day.
It was like a lot of other goodbyes over the years. He was simply on vacation with his other family for a few weeks - not living in another state. It clearly had not sunk in.
Long before Jax had left, he planned to fly home for the Labor Day weekend to spend with our extended family. It was a tradition started by my parents long before Raylan and I created our Family of Five. When we introduced Jax to the tradition he had an immediate connection with the tradition and the family dynamics.
I invited Raylan to join us fourteen years ago. He accepted the invitation - offering to come solo. A relief to my parents, his kids and his ex-wives. Try telling your parents "Um I'm dating a twice divorced dad of five. Ooooh forgot to mention - he's 16 years older than I am! AND he's coming to Sun Valley with us." Not exactly music to my parents ears. While it may not have been their dream for their only daughter they welcomed Raylan into the fold from the very beginning.
On Raylan's third Labor Day trip, he wanted to bring Jax and Little Hart along. The kids had spent time with my family on other occasions. It was a great fit. Greta had married Sal a month earlier - we had been living together for 3 months. Raylan wanted Greta's blessing - he asked - she refused. Greta wasn't ready for kids to travel with me and our extended family, maybe next year. Raylan accepted the decision with understanding. In the following months, it would become apparent that Greta did not feel that same way about the kids traveling with her and Sal nor asking for Raylan's blessing.
When Labor Day rolled around the following year, Raylan and I were officially married - 3 months and counting. Raylan was sympathetic to Greta's feelings, but knew her blessing was unlikely to ever come. Her new family was moving forward and ours needed to as well. Greta did not put up a road block to prevent the kids from joining us on the trip until the week before we were scheduled to leave.
Greta and Sal unexpectedly decided to take a trip Labor Day weekend, to a location nearby where we were staying. She insisted the kids split the three day weekend in half. Raylan agreed. It upset me very deeply that Raylan agreed without protest.
I couldn't fathom that Labor Day weekend was the only time available for Greta and Sal to make their trip or if it was the only time that she not take it without the kids. The very thing she had asked Raylan to do a year earlier. Ultimately what I thought fell on deaf ears. The weekend would be split in half.
Jax immediately fell in love with every aspect of the trip. Hanging with his new, very cool uncles - being spoiled rotten by his "new" grandparents - riding bikes - rollerblading - playing games - watching football with everyone. He was in absolute heaven! As you can imagine, our day and 1/2 of non-stop fun quickly came to a screeching halt. Jax was visibly upset that it was ending. A few weeks after the two trips - he asked that he be able to stay the entire weekend next year.
Greta and Raylan struck a deal the following year. She would take the kids every Memorial Day weekend and we would take them every Labor Day weekend. For the past nine years it was a given rather than a question mark if Jax and Little Hart would be apart of the tradition. A tradition that has become an important part of Jax's childhood memories.
This year we changed locations from a six hour drive to a forty five minute one, but the feeling was still the same. Jax flew into our local airport on Friday. Raylan suggested Greta provide the transportation to and from the airport (a 45 minute drive each way) and spend a few hours with Jax on Monday before he caught his flight home.
If it were not for our Labor Day tradition - Jax would not have come home for the weekend. So splitting the weekend was never on the table. Raylan didn't offer and Greta never asked.
Our family and Greta's family have very different dynamics - Jax and Little Hart assume very different roles within those dynamics. While I was glad that we were able to send Jax off together - spending future family vacations and family traditions with the other family would completely change the feel and enjoyment for everyone involved. Most importantly for Jax.
Every night before I went to bed and saw him talking and laughing late into the evening with his "cool" uncles, I was thankful that this tradition had been a one that Jax absolutely loved being apart of.
When Greta arrived to pick up Jax early Monday morning - we said our goodbyes only this time I started to cry uncontrollably. This goodbye wasn't see you in a few weeks - it was just goodbye.