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I have this recurring dream. There’s a knock on the door, and one of my daughters is standing there smiling. At first, I can’t tell which daughter it is, because dreams are like that.

I take her hand and lead her inside. She’s still smiling. Then she tells me her news: she’s moving! And even in the dream I feel myself stiffen in panic. I’m waiting to hear that it’s to California, because now I know this smiling person is Amy, our showbiz-executive middle daughter. For her, a move to the other coast always has been a potential issue.

So why is she smiling? Amy knows that her father and I would be heartbroken if she lived across the country with her husband and our two beloved granddaughters. Amy keeps smiling. Then she announces that no, she’s moving to our town.

Inevitably, that’s where the dream ends, so I have no chance to get the whole story. And like all dreams, this one is wispy, hard to piece together, short on anything that makes sense in the real world.

Amy is not moving to Moorestown. She will be staying just outside of Manhattan, where she and her husband’s professional lives are centered. But there it is, a deeply implanted wish – this yearning to live the life that would be our ideal scenario: our three daughters and their families just a hug away.

How selfish of us. How unrealistic. Yet how magical it would be. And we’re luckier than most – our longest commute is under three hours.  But dreams tell stories that our daily lives sometimes bury, and this one surely does.

In my ideal universe, I wouldn’t just catch a chance conversation with my daughters on their cell phones on the way to or from work. I wouldn’t settle for hurried emails for catch-as-catch-can plot summaries of their lives. I wouldn’t spend days getting their canned cell phone messages or hearing their home answering machine. I’d get them.

I know, I know. Most people would say it’s almost bizarre to think that in this modern culture a clan would actually colonize in one community. Or is it?

While it didn’t make the front page with screaming headlines, I’ve recently read that some young couples are choosing to live near their parents. Why so startling? Because we almost automatically assume that kids will drift away. Not like the 1960s, when they were heading off for communes in Utah to raise their own crops. But more often than not, they’re still off to distant places, among anonymous faces, to begin their grown-up lives. “Home again” somehow seems a defeat.

So it is news that at least some parents are rejoicing in the company of their young-adult offspring. Saturday lunches, birthday brunches and even just a Tuesday night of television watching…sheer bliss.

Friends are celebrating the return of their daughter and son-in-law from Seattle to five miles away in Cherry Hill. The delighted parents are still pinching themselves. Seems that in Seattle, the young couple found themselves sitting in an apartment where the phone never rang and holidays were dismally lonely.

So yes, there’s something almost magical about that fantasy of going into old age with the next generation nearby, to truly knowing the children of our children. There’s something unbelievably lovely about what was once the ordinary: being geographically close to your kids.

I’d happily settle for a family that is just a few towns away and no New Jersey Turnpike in between. But for me, for now, that’s just a dream.

March 2014
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