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Viewpoint: Economy brings generations together

In a sign of the times, my daughter Shelly (Park High School 2001 graduate) moved in last weekend. There were many factors.

An expiring lease, a roommate who herself moved back in with family, a freelance movie-making job requiring long stretches from home, and a desire to save money as costs grow like adolescent sexual curiosity while income shrinks like post-menopausal libido.

We cleared a corner of the basement, moved the large, dust-covered treadmill and exercise bike even farther out of sight and mind, and resurrected an old dresser, desk and bed. Most significantly, I opened the kitchen to a second woman. Our modest 18-cubic foot refrigerator and small pantry now burst with the requirements of a 26-year old's gluten-free, mostly vegan, dairy-free, largely organic food plan. For the first time, I have bought organic collard greens and cheese made from plants that never journeyed first through a cow. Her Jack LaLanne juicer takes up prime real estate on the counter of my small kitchen and its many parts dominate the dishwasher every night.

In contrast to all the concerns about adult kids' aborted missions from parental launching pads, it's been wonderful having her home again. It's even been fun sharing the kitchen, despite the fact that I have caught myself scrubbing her pots and pans at midnight after one of her exotic steaming, stewing, sautéing salad creation episodes. We fall into the old roles so easily. Tasting one of her flavorful, healthy creations, I offered that it could use some nuts. This suggestion elicited a halt in the tossing and an exasperated, heavy sigh. "Shelly, just because I offer a suggestion doesn't mean I'm telling you what to do." That disclaimer went over as well as the original culinary comment.

Later that evening, as I was throwing together some refrigerator-clearing organic chicken salad sandwiches for dinner, she said, "Ummm, that looks really good. Y'know what that salad could use? Some Craisins!" As I looked at her and said, "Oh, really?" she realized she had just replicated my well-intentioned interference from six hours ago, and we both cracked up. "Throw them in!" I said. Her suggestion was spot on, the salad was delicious. It's nice to have this opportunity to fall into new roles easily, too.

It's not just a daughter who has come home, it's a big sister. "Big" is probably not the best word choice, since her "little" brother, 11 years younger, now towers over her by almost a foot. She offered to pick him up from drivers' ed class one evening and take him to the new Harry Potter movie. The Hastings theater was shut down due to a broken transformer so they ended up in Inver Grove Heights at the late-late show, not getting home until roughly 2:30 a.m. With parents who have drilled into his head that nothing good happens after midnight, this wee-hour outing only went unquestioned because of its sibling nature. That's a lesson that who you hang out with really matters, hopefully one that will stay with him after she's moved on again.

A friend relayed similar serendipity from having her daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter move back home. "It just makes sense," she said. "Why should they live in an apartment when we have extra bedrooms and a finished basement? Why shouldn't a 2-year-old have a yard to play in if she can? Now when it's nice she and I eat dinner on the little table on the patio. She points to the door and says, 'owTIDE, owTIDE!' Just the two of us. It's great!"

In our home, we probably tie the personal to the political more than most families, the curse of having Mom be so passionate about campaigns, elections and the public policies that result. As much as I have blasted the numerous fiascos that comprise the Bush legacy, I have to admit that one of his most colossal misadventures, trashing the economy by letting greed rule out over public interest, has nonetheless given some families a silver lining.

Eileen Weber is a nurse and attorney from Denmark Township who lived in Cottage Grove for 15 years.