LOVE IT WHEN THEY COME,
LOVE IT WHEN THEY GO

     The Christmas holidays are over, and the children have flown south to return to school and jobs, leaving my wife and I all alone in our empty house. 
     Hallelujah!!
     Itís not that I donít like my children. Theyíre very nice kids, and I always look forward to seeing them. And I honestly hope they do come back and visit again and again.
     But after spending almost 30 years raising the little munchkins, I found it surprisingly easy to recover from the "empty nest syndrome" that afflicts so many parents. In fact, I estimate it took me about an hour and a half after the last child left home before I felt really comfortable.
    I quickly realized they donít leave for long, anyway. My daughters visit often, and my 21 and 22 year old sons are only an hourís flight away, so theyíre home for holidays, most of the summer, and any weekend when one of their hometown friends decides itís time for a reunion.
     And when they return, our quiet little empty nest suddenly turns into a frat house. Kids coming in and out at all hours, TVís blaring, junk food and empty beer bottles in rooms that have been untouched for months---itís chaos.
     One morning last week kind of summed it up. I heard the front door open and close a few times around 3 a.m., and I hoped it was someone I knew. The boys had gone out in San Francisco, 30 minutes away, and I tried not to worry about whether they would make it home. But someone had made it back, and I wanted to assume it was them.
    The next morning I confidently went downstairs and saw my 19 year old nephew, who was visiting us from Canada, sleeping on the couch. I woke him up and he groggily informed me that the 21 year old ended up in Orinda and the 22 year old was still in San Francisco, exact whereabouts unknown.
    I noticed the door was closed to the boyís bedroom. "Whoís in there?" I asked, cringing.
    My nephew had trouble concentrating. Apparently, he had thrown up quite a few times while having his designated driver take him back to our house. But he managed to stimulate his brain just enough to answer. "I think itís Jonah."
    Jonah was a friend of my 22 year old son and a fellow engineering student. His family is from Nigeria, so he was spending the holidays with us. Heís a behemoth of a young man, 6í-7" and 250 pounds.
    I opened the door and, sure enough, he was sleeping in my sonís bed. He heard the door open and sheepishly said good morning. I didnít understand why he looked so sheepish until I saw the other head pop up from under the covers.
    "Hi, Iím Tiffany," she chirped.
    Thatís when I hit the wall. My two sons were nowhere to be found, my nephew was so hungover he could barely talk, and there was a rather unusual couple sleeping in my sonís bed.
    It was the movie,"Hangover, Part Three." I half-expected to find a rhinoceros in one of the other rooms.
    There were other incidents, but that was my favorite. So when they flew south early this week, I had mixed emotions. Iím always sorry to see them go, but the quiet house helped ease the pain.
    And as always, I remembered one of my fatherís favorite sayings. When my sisters and I had young families, we would visit him at his idyllic cabin retreat up in the mountains. After a weekend of little grandchildren screaming and yelling and tugging at his sleeve, all of whom he loved dearly, he would repeat his mantra.
    "I have seen the sunrise at the Taj Mahal," he would begin. "I have seen the sunsets at the Great Pyramids. I have seen the moon glisten off the waters of the South PacificÖÖBut the most beautiful sight I have ever seen is the sight of my childrenís taillights as their car disappears over the hill."
   Iím not positive, but I think he was exaggerating.
 

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