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 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
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.
Though 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.
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. But47 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: