Ten minutes ago there were six grimy kids hovering around my kitchen island, all talking at once, words piling on words, gangly arms reaching over shoulders toward the bowl of pistachios and plate of hastily sliced watermelon I’d thrown together as soon as my front door banged wide and the first voice yelled, “We’re back!”
Their clothes were still damp from crawling on their bellies through small caverns filled with rainwater, the water coming up to their chins and low hanging rocks grazing the tops of their heads.
Hunter, my 16-year-old nephew, had a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “It was paradise!”
My daughters, 23 and 15, talked about coaching each other through scary climbs. Someone recalled almost having to push 13-year old Isaac through a particularly cramped space. Conner, 18, had to warn everyone away from a dark corner when something growled at them from the shadows.
Jaron, in his early twenties and the one with the most caving experience, had served as point man for most of the trek. He told me, “At one point I hollered back at the others, ‘We can go over that rock and stay dry, or we can army-crawl beneath this ledge through freezing water.” Right away I heard this chorus of voices yell, ‘Army crawl!’”
Jaron paused, nearly misty-eyed, then said, “I love these guys!”
They left as fast as they came. My nephews ordered pizza and had it delivered to my sister’s house. The motley crew—consisting of my daughters and their cousins and a friend—piled into two cars and drove away.
I looked at my kitchen. Cups and shells and rinds were strewn everywhere. The locusts had descended, devoured and departed in pursuit of pepperoni.
My kitchen is clean now and all the rooms are quiet, except for the clicking of my keyboard and the distant sound of a dog barking somewhere in the neighborhood. I suspect that in the past half hour I’ve seen a foreshadowing of my future.
They arrive. They bring chaos and life. And then they leave.
But not without giving more than they take.
Wiping my kitchen counters took me a few minutes at best. Wiping the smile off my face will take a lot longer.