Life passes in periods of time, such as our 'Era of Roses'

  • Baheej Khleif loved to care for roses at his Sleepy Hollow home.

    Baheej Khleif loved to care for roses at his Sleepy Hollow home. Susan Anderson-Khleif

Updated 1/24/2022 6:35 AM

Lately I've started thinking of life in eras. I mean my own personal life.

Probably everyone has "eras" in their lives. Many are related to family and work. There are also other markers, such as an activity or set of experiences that somehow define a period of time.


I am not talking about the traditional sociological family life cycle that was a popular framework for analyzing family behavior in the mid 1900s. At that time, most "nuclear families" (meaning a household of two married parents and their children) in the U.S. passed through a "typical," common series of family life cycle stages.

Of course, even then it was more of an idealized framework and did not really fit everybody. But that was a time when there was the traditional "dating" period, followed by people marrying quite young, soon after high school or college, having children right away, raising them, and later entering the "empty nest" stage when the kids left home, etc. This was before the divorce rate started skyrocketing in the 1970s.

In my case, the era I am thinking about is not the growing family, although that was certainly happening. It's our "Era of the Roses," a decade from about 1993 to 2003.

Recently I came across an album of photos of the many roses in our gardens during that period here in Sleepy Hollow. They were so beautiful. It got me to thinking; that was our Era of the Roses.

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Baheej loved roses, and so did his father in Nazareth. One of the first things Baheej did after we bought this house is to start planting rose bushes everywhere. Dozens of bushes, all colors and sizes and scents. They were so pretty and cheerful. Baheej knew how to plant them and care for them, skills learned from his father.

In the spring of 1993, Baheej was on summer vacation, so he started in with the roses. Somehow those roses defined a very special time in our life together. We had just moved here from Massachusetts. It was a big move, to new jobs and a new community. Our careers were booming and we enjoyed our work and furnishing our new house, exploring the Chicago area. We were also traveling frequently.

The children were grown but visited a lot, often with our young grandchildren, although they all lived far away. There were lots of family gatherings and happy holidays. This era was a packed and fulfilling period.

And there were always roses. One June, just before my staff meeting (which I usually held here at our house), Baheej bought about 20 rose bushes and planted them all along the walkway to the front door, and in pots on the front porch. They were already in full bloom and people where duly surprised to see flowering roses when they arrived to the meeting -- blooming here in northeastern Illinois so early in the year!


Baheej also planted many rose bushes in a front garden, visible right out the front window. One morning we got up and the blooms on all those rose bushes had been chopped off, not one bloom left. We thought -- yikes, vandalism! So we reported it to the police, who came to investigate. They took photos of the damage.

The next day some new friends came over to dinner and we told them about the vandalism on the roses. Our friend went out to inspect the garden and he said: "deer!" He showed us the hoof prints all about. He continued: "Deer love to eat roses, just the flower. They munch them right off." Little did we know! We just laughed about the whole thing with the police (what else to do?). We called the police and withdrew our report!

By 2004, we were on to a different era. But I will always think fondly of all those roses and the decade they defined.

The point is: Hopefully life is long, so it helps (me anyway) to think in terms of eras, each with it's own pleasures and/or challenges. It helps make sense of the past, and present.

So what happened to the roses? Well, a couple big changes happened:

1.) The deer won, eventually. We had so many deer in residence that we had to turn to patio gardening. Out in the yard they ate everything -- roses, vegetables, tomato flowers, any tender sprout.

2). The Chicago-area winters are not roses friendly. Most bushes did not make it through the cold winter and had to be replaced every spring. So we moved on. But it was a beautiful era.

There were other eras: when the children were young, when grandchildren were young, the career years.

We don't really have to miss those old days, just appreciate the eras as we live them. Even now is an era for me -- the Era of the Kitties. Really the Era after Baheej. It has it's own new challenges -- not deer, not roses or cold winters. It's the "After and Alone Era." A new set of special challenges to find meaning and purpose. We must try.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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