“A House Abloom with Family and Flowers,” column for July 17, 2012

The sunflowers that smiled for two weeks on my kitchen table stopped smiling today.
Actually, it wasn’t just a single bunch of flowers. I’d been picking out the ones that faded and buying fresh ones to add to the vase as needed to keep them looking happy _ like me.
But today, after the oldest of my three children hugged me goodbye and drove away, I went back inside and looked at the sunflowers. Their heads were bowed. Their stems were bent. Their petals littered the table.
They were done. So was I. Lucky for me, only one of us ended up in the trash.
In the six years since a job change forced my husband and me to move to Las Vegas, we’ve made countless trips back to California to visit our children and other family, including in recent years, three grandbabies.
We also issued an open and standing invitation for them to visit us, and have been delighted each time they’ve done so.
But coordinating the visits takes a bit of an effort. It’s a little like herding snakes.
Before the grandbabies came along, my three and their others would come see us all at once, piling in like a litter of pups, sleeping anywhere they could, fighting for the bathroom, eating everything in sight.
My husband’s two boys and their others did the same at other times of the year.
Talk about fun. We wouldn’t take anything for those visits.
But adding babies to the mix changes things considerably in terms of schedules and space and sleeping arrangements.
So this time we tried to stagger the visits one family at a time.
While my husband’s boys plan to see us in August or early fall, my three all showed up in July, arriving in reverse birth order: First, my youngest, his wife and 2-year-old Randy drove 10 hours from California to stay for a week and celebrate the Fourth.
Then last week, my daughter, her husband and 10-month-old Henry flew in for five days. And finally my oldest drove from L.A. for a long weekend.
I spent two weeks hanging on all their words, listening to their stories, watching them play like trained seals in the pool, seeing the light in their eyes, laughing and talking and cooking and eating and just being together.
And, oh, the babies. I wish you could see them. I got to feed them and change them and rock them to sleep. I read to them, sang to them and taught them silly rhymes. I even made them laugh just by shaking my head.
If being a mama is the hardest job I’ve ever known, being a nana is by far the easiest. But both are equally rewarding.
For two weeks, I soaked up my children and grandchildren the way the sunflowers on my table drained the water from the vase.
And then, one after the other, they had to go. With so little time between departures and arrivals, I didn’t get a chance to miss them, didn’t hear that awful sound _ the silence of a thousand empty spaces they left behind _ until this morning, watching my oldest drive away. Then I heard it loud and clear.
But my husband, bless him, coaxed me out of the pit, so to speak, to help put the house and our lives back in order.
We pulled the sheets off the beds. Washed three loads of towels. Packed up the high chair and the porta-crib and enough great memories to hold us over until, please God, next time.
Then we went out, just the two of us, to float in the pool and talk about how blessed, how happy, how exhausted we were.
Tonight before I sleep, I’ll give thanks for two fine weeks and the people, big and small, who filled them. And tomorrow, I’ll buy some more sunflowers.


  1. Marybeth Moore says

    I live in Vegas now, too and all my family is still in TN. I get to go home every year at Christmas and my mom comes out each summer. The time together is more wonderful than anything in the world but the silence after we leave is deafening. You expressed my feelings perfectly. I love to read my thoughts in your words! Thank you.

  2. Beautiful. Thank you.

    My husband and I got to play with our 18-month-old grandson two weeks ago. Pure heaven.

  3. Lisa Meyer says

    Beautiful! I’m thankful for your wonderful writing and I’m so glad to hear that you had great visits together. Miss you and love you all!

  4. I am fortunate to have my two children & their families here. But my parents lived 8 hours away & we used to take turns coming & going for holidays. I loved having them here for Christmas & they would sometimes stay over into the New Year I remember how empty the house would feel after they were gone. I would be exhausted & my house would be a mess, but I couldn’t wait to do it all over again. Now I have only those memories to cherish.

  5. So sweet. Sounds exactly like where we live. How blessed we are when the thundering herd descends upon our lives. And oh how our hearts ache when they leave.

    Thank you Sharon for your many beautiful stories of home. You lift my spirits everytime. Since a mystery illness has taken my strength to work, I’ve begun writing. You inspire me often. God bless you sweet sistuh!

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