Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Fragile Life, Insight, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Demeter (College drop-off, Part. I)

There’s a battle raging in my belly, but what is the fight really for? I expect few in the battle know.

I once fought for a lover, offered to wear a string bikini & buy him a motorcycle.

But was it really him I wanted? (I’m so lucky I lost that fight.)

Neither do I want my children to never age, to never leave home.

I woke at 3 this morning, 4 am yesterday. I was there when the morning took its first breath and when that breath swept across the land with the rising sun, and I saw it greet the setting moon in the pink sky over the pond.

Though it’s been painful and violent and sweeping, maybe there isn’t a battle inside. Maybe this is what comes from laying a mantle down.

Before my decades as Mother, I cared for classrooms of students (who are parents now themselves), and before students, it was my eight younger siblings and an entire generation of younger cousins.

“Kelly Ann, you’re the oldest, you must set a good example.”

They began to potty-train me before I could walk.

I wore black last Saturday when we moved our chubby-cheeked sky-eyed baby into a dormitory room 100 miles away.

Before leaving home, I hung a black fleece blanket on the line thinking: How fitting.

“We don’t have a family anymore,” I cried to my husband when we returned home to nothing but ourselves.

I refused consolation.

Like the fabric draped over mirrors, this grief, this agony is an honoring of a great passing. A necessary or at least certain tearing of the fabric.

“Let it rip,” my mind says.

“How dare you!” replies my heart. “Would you say the same of your life’s work, or your country or your self? What do you know of carrying a life inside! Of sustaining it at your breast!”

But the ripping has been there since the beginning. The cells dividing. The infant forced from the womb. The first day back to work. The first day of preschool. The first crush. The first death of a pet.

I lay on the couch, holding my belly in agony. I haven’t been able to hold down food since the day I wore black, and a hardly ate in the days leading up to that.

But I’ve figured out what it is about that line from that parenting song by Tom Rush where the son is leaving. It’s bothered me ever since my boys were young, back when this family of four was a forever feeling…

Goodbye momma goodbye to you too pa
Little sister you’ll have to wait a while to come along
Goodbye to this house and all its memories
We just got too old to say we’re wrong

Got to make one last trip to my bedroom
Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind
It’s funny how the same old crooked pictures
Just don’t seem the same to me tonight

There ain’t no use in shedding lonely tears mamma
There ain’t no use in shouting at me pa
I can’t live no longer with your fears mamma
I love you but that hasn’t helped at all

Each of us must do the things that matter
All of us must see what we can see
It was long ago you must remember
You were once as young and scared as me

I don’t know how hard it is yet mamma
When you realize you’re growing old
I know how hard is not to be younger
I know you’ve tried to keep me from the cold

Thanks for all you done it may sound hollow
Thank you for the good times that we’ve known
But I must find my own road now to follow
You will all be welcome in my home

Got my suitcase I must go now
I don’t mind about the things you said
I’m sorry Mom I don’t know where I’m going
Remember little sister look ahead

Tomorrow I’ll be in some other sunrise
Maybe I’ll have someone at my side
Mamma give your love back to your husband
Father you’ve have taught we well goodbye
Goodbye Mamma goodbye to you too pa”

~

Give your love back to your husband!

WHY IS IT only the mother who is assigned another object of desire as if a woman is never a subject in and of herself. Either a Miss or a Mrs. Never an “I.”

Yes, I may have food poisoning or even a parasite. I’ve seen the doctor. And I’ve missed everything I’d imagined pouring into last weekend and into this week–from the Boozy Brunch to the Romantic dinner to the hours of uninterrupted focus to swimming with the moon and communing with friends beside the pond.

But have I really “missed” it?
Is that what I wanted?
Is that what was needed?

Aren’t I like Demeter, separated from her child, in a period of necessary darkness.

Isn’t it true what May Sarton had to say, that without darkness, nothing comes to birth, as without light, nothing flowers.

And isn’t this separation like a flower on a garland lifting up all the other flowers—all the previous incarnations of seed & bloom & leaving—like summer is getting ready to do. Summers past and lovers past and even my own siblings taken from the home we shared and kept apart from one another except for formal, supervised visits in a cold and unwelcoming place. And then the earliest flower of all, Lila, when 4 years and two-thousand miles separated me from the place and the person to whom I most belonged until death made that a fools dream.

Last night as I lay on the couch bemoaning the heat and a diet restricted to broth, a breeze blew through the window above my head and lifted the gauzy ivory curtain across my face, like the caress of a lover, like the first breath of the morning across the land, like a mother soothing a feverish child, like a covering draped over the head of the dead.

My life has held so much loss.
So much love.

To the refugees separated from their children, to my friends posting photos of the first day of preschool or a college drop off on the other side of the country… The flower of my heart is connected to yours.

On that first morning waking without a family, I looked out the window and saw that all the Gladiolas at the back of the garden had bloomed bright white.

~

College drop-off, Part II: Whose dream?)

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Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Old Yeller

It turns out that I resent my children for aging out of our lives.

This is a surprise, because I was never one of those moms who wished the kids stayed little forever.

I always liked when they aged.

New beginnings and all.

And I am really looking forward to belonging to myself again. To rediscovering what that means.

So why this hostility?
This grief?

How does it hurt so much when I wouldn’t have it any other way?

These aren’t questions I’m asking my own heart. Questions that wake me into the moment so that I don’t miss it while hating them.

“I wish I never loved you at all,” I want to yell.
“LEAVE!”

Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“Someday” has arrived


Our community came together one day in June to raise the frame of our home–along with 3-year-old Aidan who spent the day hammering nails into the floorboards of what would be our kitchen; and 8-year-old Lloyd who knelt beside his preschool & primary teachers laying down the floor to what would become his bedroom; and Casey, age 38, who lifted beams with friends & family (and even strangers) to realize a dream come true; and me, age 40, who never had the chance to live in one place very long and who climbed the frame at the end of the day and tapped an evergreen branch to its peak while everyone cheered below.

14 years have passed.
14 Christmases.
14 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
14 summers.
14 autumns.

Over the years, Casey spoke of needing an addition—the living room was always too small; but I countered that the boys would be gone someday and the house was already too large for two.

“Someday” has somehow arrived.

What was “raised” to be a home for 4, becomes a home for 2 at the end of summer—which is almost as unfathomable as building this home for ur family once was.

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Letting go like a dream, or labor, or swimming under water

klimt-mother-and-childThough she could probably count the times she’d cried as an adult, she found herself randomly weeping throughout the entire college orientation weekend.

Shit, she thought. What did I get myself into?

She thought she was ahead of the game of loss given her advance work on the blog and the book entitled, The Empty(ing) Nest Diary (END). But there seemed to be no escaping any of it. It was a lot like labor in this way. Unpredictable. Chaotic. Tender. Remarkable. Excruciating.

By the second day, she began to feel that she was caught up in a bad dream. Her son’s impending absence was so thick around her heart, that she felt the need to hug him, but she couldn’t find him—not in the bookstore, or the meal tent, or in the lounge or  in the residence halls.

Once or twice she thought she spied him among the crowds, and she even ran toward him, only to discover that it was another handsome young man who did not belong to her.

When she crossed paths with his friends,  she had to restrain herself from embracing them, though she did over eagerly greet them with a desperate joy.

“Have you seen Lloyd?”she’d ask, trying be casual, as if she was just making conversation, not letting on that in fact she was caught in a nightmare where her son was just around the corner, but she’d never find him. Again.

When she finally did stumble upon him, the real him, on a tour, she hugged him. In public. In front of strangers. He didn’t seem to mind. Too much.

They would meet for lunch. She placed herself at the first table in the tent, facing the entrance so that she wouldn’t miss him; and still she looked behind herself every 10 minutes just in case she’d been distracted and missed him rushing by.

But he did eventually arrive, and even returned to her table once he found some lunch. It was a light meal and quick conversation and then he was off again with his friends.

Suddenly she realized that this is how it would be.

He would breeze in and breeze out of her days like breath after a long time underwater, and she would be both refreshed and emptied in the space she created inside to receive him.

She resented this. Because of her father.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Dreaming Goodbyes

(Jean Ryder)
Moses basket (image: Jean Ryder)

Cold Autumnal air invades my summer evenings, and I feel the chi drain from my body as if it were a tree.

Two nights in a row, I get into bed before 8 and sleep a dozen hours.

The following night my husband wakes me like a newborn, as he shuffles from our bed to the bathroom and back again, again and again.

The next night, our youngest, the 13 year old, does the same.

The third night, I wake on my own, but can’t get back to sleep.

I look for the moon, but it’s dark outside. I  consider my cycle, but it’s still a ways off. I review my day, but there was no caffeine.

I remember then.  My son is missing. The first-born. The one to be 18 tomorrow. But he’s just over at a friend’s house, for now.

In a week’s time, he’ll be gone–for good–off to college.

As the hours pass, I grow sleepy, and the lamp shade that sits on my floor, waiting to be mounted, becomes a Moses Basket, the one he sleeps inside.

I could pick him up, but I let him sleep, and I sleep too… dreaming goodbyes.

Posted in College, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

What’s Next?

My oldest son turns 18 today so this becomes my first post in a brand new chapter of posts on the Empty(ing) Nest Diary.

Photo from his first vacation. Without us.
Photo from his first vacation. Without us.

Only I don’t know what to call this chapter…

Parenting Adults

That seems misdirected.

Adult Children

Ominous.

????

It’s odd to think that the seed for this Empty(ing) Nest blog was planted in the hours after my son was born when I reached down in the shower to wrap my arms around a hollow belly.

A month later, I realized the immensity of the separation that stretched out before us.

But those moments of prescience were obscured by years, and months, and days, and hours–of devotion and attention and connection–and BIG LOVE.

This morning, the birthday boy and his girlfriend read through the tiny hand-bound book of quotes that I recorded from the mouth of that preschooler who heads to college next week.

“Wow, parenting a teenager must be awful!” my son said.

“What do you mean?” I asked, feigning confusion.

“It sounds like I really liked you when I was little.”

“Yep,” I said.

He took his girlfriend’s hand and headed up the stairs, and I put on some blues…

The thrill is gone

The thrill is gone away for good…

Free, free, free now baby…

I’m free for good.

Now that’s it all over,

All I can do is wish you well.

Who knew that the blues could speak to mothers, but they do…

I tried to get a head start on this empty nest thing years ago when my son first entered adolescence. I thought if I wrote about it, ahead of it all,  it would be easier, like having an epidural.  But 47 posts on Teens later, I still feel the pain of this impending separation.

I feel it when I shop for his toiletries. I feel it when I kiss him goodnight. I feel it when I look at his younger brother, who has just turned 13 himself.

It’s too early to pour a glass of chardonnay so I turn toward the issue of laundry. My 18 year old’s laundry. At college.

For days now, I’ve been plagued with worry…

What kind of laundry basket should he have at school?

What would serve as an inviting receptacle, and also a means of transport to the laundry room, and then back again, folded, to be placed in drawers?

This preoccupation of mine is odd for so many reasons, but mainly because:

I stopped doing my son’s laundry when he was 5,

and because my son currently leaves his clothes strewn across the floor,

washes them only when he needs underwear,

(or when he can’t afford to buy any more shirts,)

and then leaves his clean laundry in the washer–for hours,

followed by the dryer–for days,

Until it is coaxed along by strident parental pleas,

after which he leaves it in the laundry basket,

Until someone else needs the basket,

and grumbling, dumps the laundry on his bed,

Where it Remains…

Until it slides back onto the floor

Whence it came.

“Why don’t we wait until I get there and see what I works?” my son says.

He was always practical like this, even as a toddler. (It’s annoying.)

I’ll never forget the first time he called me on my parental misguided-ness:

Why do you want to yell about sneakers?

I hear the keys jingle by the door, so I stop him to ask:

“Where are you off to?”

“To get a lottery ticket,” he says.

I join in on brainstorming a list of all the other things he can in town now that he’s 18:

Buy cigars

Shop at  Life’s Little Luxuries

Enter the adult section of the video store

Be charged as adult for a crime

“I should have done something bad yesterday when I was still 17,” he said.

“Don’t forget to vote,” I add, as he heads out the door.

As much as I’ve loved this kid, I don’t want to Parent an Adult or know an Adult Child; so I think I’ll stay open to what this new chapter brings.

Kelly Salasin, August 15, 2013

Note: This is the first post in the “What’s Next?” Category.