The Earth Blushed

As we take prom photos, the backyard really glows. Hmmmm, what’s causing that?

There should probably be some social media channel – or maybe a pill — for all the parents puttering around the kitchen at 1 am, waiting for their children to come home from prom.

Then again, there’s something to be said for being alone with your thoughts.

These quiet moments – putting the dishes away, capping what’s left of the wine — are like little poems we write to ourselves. Not even sure what the background music would be, were I scoring the moment. Maybe there doesn’t need to be music.

For 38 years, kids have been my music. Now the house is quiet, all of them nearly gone, and this prom night a pre-cursor of a permanent peace soon to come.

Fortunately, I always have my needlepoint to fall back on, and will take up gin rummy (which I think has to do with gin. I’ll look into that).

I’m also hoping to invent my own crypto-currency: Daddy-Coin.

Listen, what do I have to gripe about? I’ve had kids living at home for 38 straight years. Thirty-eight years! I’m lucky just to be alive.

Earlier in the day, the house was as crashy as Christmas. I think I heard a cymbal fall as Smartacus prepped for prom. I ironed his white dress shirt, hoping to steam away the little spot on the collar. On closer inspection, not even sure we washed this shirt. Oops. Too late now.

It’s amazing we survive at all — the widower and his bachelor son.

Rapunzel to the rescue! In a couple of hours, she set out balloons and charcuterie trays for the pre-prom gathering of kids and parents. She filled plastic flutes with non-alcoholic wine. Tulips here. Sunflowers over there.

“Hi Helen! Hi Steve! Come on in! All the booze is in the backyard. Leave your purse in the bedroom.”

Mazel tov!

Like her sister, Rapunzel is the consummate party giver. There is no pre-party angst, no jitters, no barking to get things done. It’s a gift, really, the ability to throw a party and enjoy the process. Her poise is a puzzle. Certainly, it skipped her dad.

And, let’s re-visit a vital life rule: Everything tastes 25% better when served on a toothpick.

Meanwhile, the backyard glowed, though not from the new landscape lighting. The best flood lights in the world can’t complete with the color in the cheeks of 8 teens headed off to senior prom.

On Saturday night, the Earth blushed. You could spot it from space.

Hello Houston? We have a problem. LA might be on fire.

Now, here I am, hours later — at 1 in the morning — trying to stay awake so I can pick him up.

The agreement was this: Smartacus and his date Leslie could go to the post-prom party, but only if I dropped them off myself, then picked them up again when it ended. Beer, you know. And gummies. And lord knows what else. Absinthe? Animal dung? Babylonian skull potions?

All I know is that the parents will be there, and that they are attentive parents. And that the last time I was up at 1 am was to change his diaper.

That was only 18 years ago. Not much has changed.

You know, he kind of muses me, to verb a word that probably shouldn’t be verbed. Muses. To muse. I have mused.

He and I have been the two caretakers of Posh’s home since she left, while also looking after his big brother’s memory, while also feeding his late brother’s needy orphaned dog.

So when Smartacus goes to prom, I go to prom.

Not literally. It’s just that everything he’s gone through these past couple of years, well, I’ve experienced much of it too. I hope not in some smothering way. I tried to let him breathe. To let him figure out his school work. Sink or swim.

In four months, Smartacus will swim off to college, perhaps the best milestone a kid can have. Attention, obstetricians: Labor lasts 18 years. It doesn’t end till college.

I’m not done with him yet, nor he with me. And fortunately, my nutty friends need me. With them, every weekend is prom. I mean, what am I gonna do with Bittner and Miller? And Eugene and Jeff might move in. Oh, the humanity.

Point is, and I often have one: Don’t let the couch be your only friend.

Heard an interesting story the other day, after buying sunflowers at the farmers market. I threw a long-stemmed bundle of them over my shoulder, as if carrying a musket home from war.

My buddy Brad spotted me walking home with all these flowers and shared this: When placed in a vase, sunflowers will always turn their faces to the sun, as you would expect.

But in a dark environment, without sun, sunflowers will turn toward each other.

So yeah. Some tiny lesson in that.

And there’s another little muse on the far edge of town, this newborn baby in Shangri Monica, pushing 7 pounds.

Stay tuned. Wonder what she will wear to her prom? Right now, she favors that little onesie with the baby lambs.

That probably won’t do. In 18 years, her mom will take her prom shopping. One thing you can count on: They’ll overspend on shoes.

Another thing you can count on: Times change; milestones don’t.

OK, kids: On your marks…get set… grow up.

Want more milestones? My best-selling book “Daditude” is a collection of similar columns from 25 years as a columnist for the L.A. Times. Might make a nice Father’s Day gift — with a nice new set of clubs, that is. Or an Empty Nest gift for Mom, with a bottle (or two) of Chardonnay. Do they give Empty Nest gifts? They should. For info, please go to

15 thoughts on “The Earth Blushed

  1. Love this post! Thank you for the precious pictures, too. Here I go, crying before breakfast again. What memories! Thank you for sharing yours with us.

  2. Well said. After all you’ve been through these last few, I’m not surprised that you need to invent new words to accurately describe the experiences for us. In fact, you may need a few new letters… thank you for taking us all along. 🙏🏻

  3. Oh these milestones… empty nesters, and sunflowers. Summer is coming and life is once again filling up with memories and things to look forward to.

  4. Just beautiful. You have such a unique voice. When you write that screenplay, I will do your PR.

  5. Empty nest is a myth
    Every time I turn around my older son is home from Chicago and my college son is stealing beers
    You will be fine

  6. To know someone who can throw a party and enjoy it too, know a woman. The hustling male hosts are legion. I am one, though my skills and angst lie rusty from the unuse of the past year—to be found wanting, out of something, someone not serviced or at ease, perfectly happy—yikes!—the thread of memorability running like a bright wire through the proceedings, so that everyone can and will say to others,”you should have been there”. Male hosts dream of such an occurrence. Women? Not so much. Must be a gender thing. Now, it’s prom time, memorable for other reasons, and perhaps better ones. Isn’t life a party? And isn’t it really difficult to host it, no matter how briefly, even as a parent ? Party hats off to you, Chris.

  7. Another moving and memorable slice of life. Life does move on…sometimes sadly, sometimes gladly. But great to be able to observe it. Thank you for your extra punctuation that allow a bit of a pause to enjoy.

  8. I don’t know what I’d do without you Chris Erskine, and your beautiful family and your silly/crazy friends and your gin and your wonderful erudite observations of same. Sending love and blessings … You muse me!

  9. “Permanent peace to come”, not on your life. You have a new baby in your life! Wait until they come with all the paraphernalia of a first visit, and if you install a nursery, you will have them forever, until her Prom. Isn’t that what you want? Hope all had fun at the Prom, even you!

  10. Thank goodness I was not the only person crying over this one. I thought I might be getting soft, but that was a great post. It’s stunning how quickly time goes by. One minute you’re drinking chardonnay with your PTA mom friends and the next you’re dropping your kid off at college. Smartacus and his date and the others look so beautiful, as only those in their prime of life can.

    You’ll be fine once college starts, but I guarantee there will be a moment or two when you’ll walk past his room, be amazed there’s actually carpet or hardwood on the floors that have been covered in clothes for the past ten years, and miss him. You have lots of friends and hobbies and your kids love you so you’ll be busy…plus there’s always babysitting and plenty of dog walking.

  11. Love this column! You are now entering the “Grandpa Stage” and it rocks. My hubby insisted he wanted to be call “grandfather” but, after our daughter and I quit laughing, he finally settled on Papa.
    Spartacus looked handsome and the group looked ready for some fun…at last. Hope your knee improves soon.
    Keep the laughs coming!

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