I really, truly suck at goodbyes. My stomach starts churning anxiously a few days before any dreaded farewell, and I frequently find myself sneaking off to the bathroom to blot tears from my eyes.
Yesterday we had to say goodbye to the girls. It has been two great weeks, and their parents missed them desperately. We all knew they needed to go home, but that didn’t make it any easier.
Damn I love those girls!
I hate how spread out our families are, but must admit that when we do get together it is quality. We cram at least a year’s worth of memories into the week (or two!) that we carve out each year.
We made the absolute most of our Cousin Week bonus days. We explored small town swimming pools, celebrated the 4th of July together, played games galore, and visited the Omaha Children’s Museum.
As usual, the simple impromptu excursions were the most memorable. One night we went exploring for toads. Mom had recently discovered a spot along the tracks with scads of them, and the kids were highly interested in both toads and the forbidden tracks. Maggie was having too much fun swimming, so she stayed home with Grandpa while the rest of us headed out. Unfortunately, the 100+ temps and lack of rain had dried up the toad spot, and there wasn’t one to be found. The tracks, however, didn’t disappoint. The kids were amazed to see the spikes up close, and thrilled that we let them balance on the rails for a bit!
Friday night was another spontaneous one. My friend Tammy and her family drove up for dinner, and all the kids had a blast in the pool. At one point Madi decided to go inside and shower, and within minutes she emerged clean and in her PJ’s. She walked up to Grandpa and said, “I bet you wouldn’t throw me in the pool now!” What a dangerous dare! She kept taunting him and giggling, and within seconds he scooped her up and launched her in the water. The look of shock on her face was priceless! Pretty soon a game of “Grandpa, throw me in the pool too!” ensued and everyone (especially Grandpa!) was drenched. On one particular launch, Sam’s bottom tooth got bumped out. Hooray! That makes the third tooth fairy visit since we arrived in Nebraska: once for Maggie and twice for Sam!
On Saturday we went to the Omaha Children’s Museum to see the traveling Wizard of Oz exhibit. It taught the kids about tornadoes, hot air balloons, the human heart (in the Tin Man’s area), the brain (in the Scarecrow’s area) and there was plenty of room to explore and play and dream. Impressive!
Even with that impressive Oz exhibit, the kids had the most fun downstairs in the pretend grocery store. I have always thought of it as the preschool area, but they couldn’t get enough!
That night, the kids finally finished their scavenger hunt. My mom had taken 55 black and white photos throughout their property, and the kids had two weeks to explore all 13 acres looking for the exact location of each photograph. As a reward for their hard work, they earned “Cousin Bucks.” The Cousin Bucks can be redeemed for real money when we all meet in Maui this November!!
And then came the dreaded Sunday. My brother drove up to Omaha for the annual Quigley Father’s Day Golf Tournament, and afterwards we delivered the girls to him. It was time to say goodbye, but at least this time we know it won’t be a full year before we get to see each other again. Maui in November – we cannot wait!!
The house seemed so quiet when we got home, with half the kids running amok, half the kids somersaulting in the pool, and half the flip flops littering the entryway.
Cousin Week is absolute chaos for my parents. They rearrange furniture to make room for blow up beds. The dishwasher and washing machine run constantly, and clean towels are always a premium luxury. They stay up much later than normal, buy toilet paper in bulk, take time off work, and basically put their lives on hold.
Sunday morning we started to put the house back together. We deflated the bed. We took the leaf out of the kitchen table. We vacuumed while the girls packed up their bottles of sunscreen and flip flops. At one point I asked Mom if it felt good to get her house back?
She shook off the tears and replied, “I don’t need my house back.”
What she needs is this week, even though it happens so rarely.
We call it Cousin Week, but for my parents it’s Grandkid Week. Grandchildren they love so much, but see too seldom.
I’m pretty sure they welcome the chaos.