The house is quiet again.  A few toys are still scattered throughout the yard and house.  The placemats are sticky.  When I reach for a jug of milk in the refrigerator, I nearly tip over a cup of forgotten orange juice that one of the grandkids put there a few days ago–I don’t remember which one.  My daughter’s sweater–the one she searched frantically for yesterday morning before a frigid dawn, with the car running in the driveway–hangs over the back of a lawn chair in the garage, next to the bicycles and tricycles that won’t be ridden again for months.

A few short days ago, the house echoed with children’s voices and feet stomping up and down the stairs.  Adults monitored bicycle rides in our cul-de-sac or raked piles of leaves for the kids to jump into from the tree swing in the back yard.  Our oldest grandson barked orders at his brother and cousin, both four years old, which they (mostly) cheerfully obeyed.  Art projects from the treasures they’d gathered on our morning walks were drying on the art table, the kitchen counter, and hanging from magnets on the refrigerator.  Bracelets and key chains were beaded, and games were invented and played.

The annual feast ritual began mid-morning.  Pumpkin pies were dragged out to make room in the refrigerator, one already half-eaten after the children went to bed on Thanksgiving eve while it was still warm.  Cranberry sauce–my son’s specialty–cooled in the refrigerator, while my son-in-law assembled a new carrot soufflé recipe.  I threw together cornbread stuffing and coordinated the oven use with less-than-perfect precision.  Ham, stuffing, and soufflé shared time with the biscuits my daughter-in-law mixed up from whole wheat flours and corn meal, while my daughter chopped vegetables for a salad.  While the biscuits cooked, my husband carved the ham and the smoked turkey.  With all hands helping, we sat down to dinner even earlier than planned.

There were nine people in the house for about three days last week, which meant three dishwasher loads most days, bags of trash and recycling, and at least one washing machine load a day–sometimes two.  It was also nice to enjoy a little time with each of our children’s families before and after those days as well.  Since they all live out of state, we have too few of those days each year.

Now that they’re all safely home and I’ve done my lesson preparations for the week, the house is quiet again.  The dogs are resting peacefully, and the dishwasher is taking a break.  The calm is a nice break, but Christmas is a month away, and we’ll be with our son’s family in Texas for the holiday.  As I gather the toys and the books and return them to their shelves and bins, I begin to look forward to our next days together.

And I give thanks.  For the blessing of grown children who are a joy to be with, for grandchildren who delight us with their energy and laughter, for the chaos and the quiet, I give thanks.

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