Thursday night was sad. That’s because when I got home, the evacuees were gone.
They’d arrived Sunday night, when I was in no mood for entertaining. Like most of you, I’d spent the day trying to feel like I was prepared for the pending storm.
For example, my 15- and 17-year-old sons helped me fill the garage with everything outside the house that I didn’t want entering the house through the windows during a hurricane. This included trashcans, giant flowerpots, wrought-iron patio furniture and a kayak.
(Rest easy, Madame Mayor: I can assure you that last item won’t be going anywhere near the Chattahoochee River during a state of emergency, at least not with me in it.)
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My sons performed all this work with the cheerful attitude and keen attention to detail you’d expect from teen boys.
Which is not much of either.
In the evening, our friend Crystal arrived after a long trip from south Florida with her three girls — ages 4, 9 and 10 — and their tiny dog.
After establishing the two basic rules of the house – (1) keep your tiny dog away from our big, crazy dog, and (2) keep your tiny dog away from our big, crazy dog – we all settled in for the night.
But what to do? Lately, my boys and I have spent our evenings watching episodes of “Narcos” on Netflix, but we couldn’t do that with our impressionable young friends in the house.
Instead, I was watching a football game, but it wasn’t particularly exciting, and my guests didn’t like football, so I turned off the television.
We were just sitting there.
That’s when the 4-year-old handed me a book. It was “Arthur’s Computer Disaster,” the exact copy I’d read to my own daughter nearly two decades ago, and then to each of my three sons.
Did she want me to read it to her? You bet she did.
That’s when it all came back to me. I’d spent years developing a different voice for each character in the canon of children’s literature. My version of Arthur, for example, sounds exactly like an aardvark who wears glasses and enjoys video games should sound. My D.W. sounds like a highly annoying little sister when the audience was one of my sons, and a wise and heroic little sister when it was my daughter.
Today, D.W. was wise and heroic and Arthur was annoying. The 4-year-old female loved it. So I went upstairs and fetched a dusty copy of my favorite Dr. Seuss book.
“Hey, do you like ‘Green Eggs and Ham?’ ” I asked her.
“I do not like green eggs and ham,” she said.
“You do not like ‘Green Eggs and Ham?’ ” I said. “It’s a great book.”
“I like the book,” she said. “I don’t like green eggs and ham. Well, actually, I like ham but not green eggs.”
So we read “Green Eggs and Ham,” and I realized then that I missed reading to children.
And for the next four days, I remembered all the things I’ve missed about having little children in the house.
I’d missed that they like exploring the backyard with a flashlight at night.
I’d missed that they get excited about simple things like waffles.
I’d missed that they’re happy and curious and even think adults are smart.
I’d missed that they like you to throw them up in the air, and you can do it without throwing out your back.
And most of all, I’d missed that they cheer and hug you when you walk through the door after a long day at work.
Now they’re gone, and the house is back to normal.
Pardon me if I’m a little sad.