Sunday, June 15, 2008

The sound of silence

Published June 15, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I sit and write this column, I find myself startled from time to time by the silence of my house. Twisting in my computer chair, I look suspiciously toward the stairs and think, What are they up to? It’s way too quiet up there. Reality sets in with a jolt as I remember they’re not up there at all. All five kids are in a minivan with their grandparents, heading for a three week vacation in New Mexico.

I don’t know what to do with myself. The longest I’ve ever been away from all of them was 6 days, and I survived that by the skin of my teeth, the seat of my pants, and the edge of my seat.
Fortunately for me, I’m organized. I already have a list of projects lined up to keep me busy. So far I’ve been able to check off crying, sniffling, bawling, blubbering, and wailing. I’ve been tear free for about five minutes now, so I’m almost ready to move on to shaking uncontrollably, followed by hours and hours of abject misery. It’s going to be a busy day.

I’m probably being overly dramatic, but they’ve only been gone an hour at this writing. I really do have a plan. There will be a whole lot of unpacking, organizing, wallpapering, and painting going on in my house over the next few weeks. It’s hard to know if I’m taking advantage of an opportunity or just doing this to keep my mind off the kids’ absence. Chicken…egg…omelet…who knows?

Every now and then, I look up from my computer and shout, “Work it out!” just to have something to say to the silence. I’ve also started focusing more on the cats, scolding them with admonitions like, “Euclid, you know you’re not supposed to climb on the counters,” and “Isis, that wasn’t very nice, was it? Apologize to your brother,” and “Buster, use your words. I can’t understand you when you whine like that.”

I’m all geared up for the neighbors to think I’m crazy when I start spending hours at their house every day, carousing with their six children. The good news is they’re family, so they’ll probably put up with me. The bad news is they’re family, so the rest of the family will most likely learn how their newest member is a little on the unstable side.

Mealtimes are going to be a bit of a problem. I’ve spent the last few years cooking for a crowd. Unless it’s a romantic, candlelit dinner, I don’t know how to cook for two. Either Richard and I are going to have to eat nothing but steak, salmon, and Cornish game hens, or we’re going to have to eat giant tubs full of spaghetti, tuna casserole, and homemade Chinese food for a week at a time. At least the candlelight will make every bite of week-old chili seem romantic and special.

I’m debating whether or not to start some kind of a daily countdown until the kids are home. I might mark the days off on the calendar or make hash marks on the bulletin board. I could also expand my list of projects so there is one for every day they’re gone. Those are good ideas, but I think I’m leaning toward something a little more creative.

I’m going to draw one of those giant thermometers and just cry over it every day until the water mark reaches the top.