Dear Shaina,

I am surprised by the sadness and emptiness I feel in this quiet space that has taken shape around your leaving. I thought I got over that when you left for college seven years ago. I remember you setting up your room in the brand new, never-slept-in dorm at GW. You laid out your jewelry and hung your pictures, recreating your sense of home—and I tripped over a curb and landed face down in the middle of the street, twisting my ankle and tearing what might today be considered a fashionable hole in my jeans.

I felt the resulting physical pain for weeks after we got home—a welcome sort of distraction from the other kind of pain. The pains, both kinds, gradually eased. I still have the jeans with the fashionable hole in the knee. They have become comfortable.

This summer was the longest stretch of time that we have all lived under the same roof since your college days. We got used to each other, kind of. You challenged our better selves. Dad started running, and I drank more water. Our eating habits got ratcheted up a notch. We always ate a lot of salads and veggies, but you stuffed our bellies with new varieties of greens, grains and roots that cleansed our bodies and satisfied our taste buds. I am at a loss as to how to maintain even that element of your presence.

The day you left we went out to dinner, and I actually ate a greasy hamburger, garnished with defiance and guilt. It was awful! I won’t even tell you what Dad ate. At this point, the cleaning people have come, and the kitchen is eerily clean with all three refrigerators expectantly boasting open shelf space. I don’t feel like cooking, but I’ll get over it.

When I next hear from you, you will be in Israel, sleeping in a foreign bed, sharing space with strangers, cooking in a minimalist kitchen and exploring a host of vibrant markets with exotic foods. You will physically settle in quickly, as you always do…and then give yourself time for your mind and heart to catch up. And you will make yourself a home, again.

I look forward to hearing the details. I want to hear them all: the stories, the adventures and the blend of spices and flavors that will infuse this next chapter of your life.

In the meantime, I am going to go into my too-clean kitchen and try to replicate those amazing salmon patties you made over the summer, dusted with organic blue cornmeal. They were a favorite for us and your clients, some of whom are suffering with illnesses requiring tasty and especially healthy meals.

I can’t just sit here in the silence hoping to get over your leaving by starving myself. We Schusters and Shealys have a tried and true method guaranteed to help us adapt to new situations: I will get into that kitchen and start cooking right now!

I know you’ll be doing the same.