Before moving to Salt Lake City four years ago, we lived in Houston, Texas, where it’s hot and humid for nine months every year. The only people who visited us were family members, and they only came voluntarily between the months of October and April. We’d trot them out to the beach, and to Central Market (a grocery store that is truly a sightseeing experience). We’d stuff ourselves sick at The Chocolate Bar and visit a few museums and parks, and then they’d get back on the plane and feel satisfied that they’d “done the Houston thing.”
Before that, we lived in Rochester, Minnesota, where the biggest sightseeing attractions was the hospital (impressive for a drive-by, but not really a place to visit unless you have a mysterious and dire illness). The Twin Cities, an hour and a half away, was too far for a satisfying day trip. And in the winter, we’d be buried under feet of snow. When people came to visit, it was only to see the grandkids.
It had been a long time since we’d lived somewhere cool enough that people actually wanted to visit, so we were in for a bit of a surprise when we moved to Salt Lake City a few years ago. Growing up in the NYC suburbs, I’m not sure that I would have considered a town of a couple hundred thousand way out in the middle of the mountains a popular destination, but once I became Mormon, all that changed. Utah was mecca, the promised land, the place you went when you loaded up the minivan and headed west.
I knew we’d have a lot more visitors in Utah than we had in Texas or Minnesota, but coming off a solid month of house guests, I was unprepared for the number of people who wanted to come to Zion each summer, and more specifically, who wanted to stay with us.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having visitors. I love seeing my family, who all live far away. I love seeing friends. I love going out for breakfast at Ruth’s Diner (a place we never go when we don’t have company), and sitting out on my front porch with a friend, hot summer concrete warming my back, watching the sun go down. I love that I actually get out the door and go to Temple Square (for the twelfth time) and Red Butte Garden (for the eighteenth time) or drive the Alpine Loop (for the millionth time). I love eating the raspberry shakes that everyone considers a must-not-miss Utah staple.
We have awesome house guests, and I am incredibly grateful that they come visit me so I don’t have to pack up six kids and traipse across the country to see all of them. But I don’t love planning dinners for a dozen. Or washing sheets and towels. Or going to City Creek a dozen times in three months. Or needing to remember to keep the fridge stocked. Or the loss of my sacrosanct hour after lunch every day– the hour that keeps me from going absolutely crazy the rest of the day. Or doing laundry when everyone else is playing. Or opening up the pool every day for the company to swim. Or saying goodbye. I really hate saying goodbye.
Today, I’m enjoying the solitude of the day with just me and my four younger kids (the two big ones went back to school yesterday). I’m really, really looking forward to a quiet hour after lunch to read (and maybe even write!?!). We’re going to have pancakes and bacon for dinner, with no fruit or green vegetable (which I always feel pressured to put on the plate when there are extra people in the house). But I’m sure that by next week, I’ll be wishing I had someone to go to Nielsen’s with me for a late night frozen custard run, or someone to sit with on the patio at Ruth’s, enjoying the scenery and each other, not caring that I feel like a tourist in my own hometown.