I love my family, but

I love my family—but.

There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?

But some days. That’s all, but some days.

The Chicago wing of the family was here recently, so the entire clan got together and it was a long weekend. A long, noisy, cluttered, stepping-over-diaper-bags and infant car seats and toys-in-the-kitchen-where-they-don’t-belong weekend.

I fed 34 in two separate shifts. Oh, someone ate the last piece of chicken, so I didn’t have to wrap it up but other than that I was on my own. The kids were watching their kids.

The backyard was littered with water toys, an inflatable water slide, an inflatable pool, plastic golf clubs, wet towels, sand everywhere but in the sandbox, plastic bats and balls, a toddler with a welt on the side of her head and swarms of mosquitoes. Yes, we know it’s fall, but it was a beautiful day and a last hurrah of summer.

My pleas that 11 grandkids would change into swimwear upstairs and not scatter their clothes throughout the house was unheeded. Apparently, my mouth moves, but no sound comes out. Children’s shorts, shirts, tops and underwear were scattered in every room, like a department store trashed after a major sale.

Three times my shoes stuck to the kitchen floor where someone had spilled lemonade. I hadn’t planned on serving lemonade, but when someone asked the husband if they could have lemonade, naturally, he said yes. He always says yes.

I love my husband—but.

I heard a commotion out by the kiddie pool. It was a tussle over the hose and shrieks that someone had deliberately sprayed someone else in the face.

In the glare of the afternoon sun, small ripples in the kiddie pool began looking like ocean waves gently rocking a luxury liner calling my name. It was a cruise ship with porters and stewards in crisp uniforms carrying plated trays of adult hors d’oeuvres—no half-eaten cheese cubes or rubbery fruit snacks shaped like animals.

I saw myself relaxing on deck in a lounge chair, holding an iced fruity drink in sparkling stemware (not some beat-up colored plastic kiddie cup) in one hand and a book in the other. The activity director stopped by to remind me of my appointment at the spa.

Nobody was asking for bandages, sun screen or anti-allergy meds or if I knew where they left their shoes.

It was quiet.

Too quiet.

Where was the loud, curly-headed tot who has named herself “Peanut”? The kid with brown eyes behind big glasses, the one who can never leave without a hug and a kiss? The one who always throws the hand towel on the floor and leaves the water running in the bathroom?

Book a cruise and miss all this? Never.

Well, maybe.

No, never.

They’re all gone now. Sheets have been stripped from the beds, the washing machine is humming, the house is back in order and the kitchen floor is clean.

Tomorrow, I’ll be wondering when they’ll all be back.

As for now, it’s 7:32 p.m., and I’m thinking of going to bed.

I love my family.