As a “stay-at-home mom”, I had the privilege of watching my small children transform into something foreign every Monday through Friday around 4:30. Like werewolves in the full-moon light, their little voices would rise above the sounds of the TV, music or the incessant chirps of an electronic toy left discarded on the floor. Long before they used a clock to direct their days, my darling angels would mysteriously begin their ascent into the “witching hour”, as I called it; that last hour of the day before my husband would return from work. I both cursed and blessed that hour.
During the “witching hour”, my girls would jump, and giggle, and scream, and run in circles. To peek through my window, you would swear I had loaded them up with sugar before telling them that Christmas, Easter, their birthdays, and the 4th of July were all being celebrated that night. Somehow, the girls “knew” daddy would be home soon, and they ramped up to welcome him home. Santa couldn’t generate the excitement my husband could when he pulled his car into the driveway. It was a part of my daily routine and one I never tired of–though some days, I came close.
Somewhere along the journey, the grand “WELCOME HOME, DADDY!” was replaced by a casual, “Oh, hey, Dad.” Life with teens is certainly different. Honestly, the change was so gradual it had gone unnoticed by me. When caught up with the busyness of preparing dinner, or helping with homework, or chatting on the phone, I, too, can forget to stop long enough to truly welcome my husband or children when they return home.
One afternoon a few weeks back, I found myself growing impatient with our lovable, rescued beagle, Sammy. It was the start of the longest hour of the day. He’s an “older gentleman” now, having turned 10 this past Thanksgiving, and we say he’s the beagle who has never looked in the mirror. Though he is HIGHLY food motivated, he (thankfully) doesn’t bark just to hear himself bark like many of his beagle friends. (Having his humans home during the day helps, I’m sure.) Living with Sam is much like living with a perpetual toddler. And, though no longer a puppy, no one could convince him or me he’s not when the “witching hour” begins.
In the hour before my husband’s predictable return, Sam is up and down off the couch. He runs to the front door, peeks out the side window, runs to me or one of the girls, then runs back into the living room. His ears perk with every passing car, waiting to hear the familiar sound of “Daddy’s” Honda. Somehow, he senses when my husband turns the corner and rushes for the door. Upon the sound of the car door closing, Sammy begins whimpering until the front door is opened. Before the door is fully opened, he charges out to greet my husband, leaping up to say, “WELCOME HOME, DADDY!”
There is something wonderful about being greeted home with a warm, excited welcome. If out shopping for a day, my still small children would welcome me home with the same excitement they greeted my husband with. And, truthfully, it felt good knowing I had been missed. Perhaps, it is the ability to understand lapsed time that ends the grand homecomings. Perhaps, it is a teen’s unpredictable moods. It may be nothing more than busy schedules that end the joyful reunions at the end of the day. Even though their “witching hours” ended several years ago, my husband and I both know our kids love and miss us when we’re apart, just as we love and miss them when they are gone.
Though the gestures are lost, the feelings are not. Except for Sam. Faithful, reliable Sam, who still greets each of us with excitement and joy whether apart for 20 minutes or 2 weeks. I’ve sometimes wondered if it’s because he was abandoned by his first family at the age of 4. Maybe, even after 6 years together, he’s still grateful to have us as his “forever family.” I’ve also wondered if he has any idea how much his joyful welcomes warm my heart and conjure memories of my daughters’ toddler years. Our little beagle reminds me that we should always welcome each other home with enthusiasm. I never thought I would own a beagle. (I’m more of a “big dog” kind of gal.) But, coming home to a dog like Sam who expresses his love with enthusiasm and joy every day, has offered me so much more than a just warm “welcome home.”
How do you say “Welcome home” to the ones you love?