On Christmas morning just past, they were all here: all five of our children. In one place, at the same time, under one roof. In addition, we had a new grandbaby marking her first Christmas and assorted girlfriends and fiancés on hand as well.
Having family home for the holidays is nothing out of the ordinary for many folks — although I know some avoid such gatherings like the latest avian flu outbreak — but for us we’ve typically stuck to the “immediate” side of the equation. With five kids, you don’t have to outsource for extras when it comes to packing the holiday dinner table.
This year, we made it easier for our Front Range collection of children by having recently relocated to Highlands Ranch. With one son at CU in Boulder, another at the School of Mines in Golden and a daughter in Lakewood, we just had to await the return from a teaching assignment in Asia for Daughter No. 2 and make sure Son No. 3 tore himself away from his computer games long enough to be in the group photos.
(Note to Miller Family photographers: Crap! We forgot the group photo this year! But we do have those 700 million shots of the baby.)
With the holidays now behind us and most of our gang back to school or work, we can take solace in a few things as the house quiets down:
– We don’t have to run the dishwasher twice a day.
– The shoe population in the hallways has dwindled dramatically, with tripping-over-shoes incidents diminished commensurately.
– The washing machine, which has run non-stop since about Dec. 20, can take a slight breather.
– Standing-room-only situations around the TV have ended. (Note to self: Get bigger couch.)
Those are all just side notes, though. The real story has more to do with a house filled with laughter, babies crying, brothers wrestling, dad cooking, mom and daughters in full-on cooing mode over the baby, and yes, the occasional argument added into the mix. We’re not empty-nesters yet, but enough of our children have struck out on their own now that we have a sense of what that’ll look like. As such, Jen and I truly savor every one of these moments — even those things you wouldn’t necessarily put on the plus side, like our Boulder son’s stentorian voice and booming laughter at 2 a.m., or the constant tangle of cords and game cases strewn on the carpet in front of the TV. Somehow, even that unmistakable pain that results from stepping on a Lego in the carpet seems OK, for some day all too soon, I know, I won’t be stepping on Legos.
Now, we just enjoy listening to our older kids hold forth on the ways their lives will be different — how vastly superior their parenting will be. One son’s future children, we understand, will toil under an iron-fisted patriarchy, where no dissent is countenanced, nothing but spring water and organic vegetables pass their lips and where all waking hours are spent studying and learning new languages. And the recently minted aunt, holding the baby, has determined that having children may not, after all, be such a bad idea — although she’s still rather wary of the whole husband thing.
Plenty of time, we tell her.
Oddly enough, even as we’ve reduced the number of our children who are full-time residents in our home, we’re renting a place even bigger than the one we had in the mountains. As the holidays proved, we’re glad we did, because having a base station where grown-up kids can come for refuge, family time, free laundry and home-cooked food may be one of the best things we can provide as they stand poised to launch into their own careers and families.
Alex Miller is a former editor of the Summit Daily and Vail Daily newspapers who recently moved to Highlands Ranch with his family. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.