Tag Archives: empty nest

how an empty nest is not like a dreaded breakup

IMG_3752I don’t know about you, but I had two relationships in my 20’s that were important, somewhat long-term, that should have upset me greatly when they ended, but did not. There was only relief! As the time for my younger son’s departure for college approached two years ago, I remember wishing that his leaving might follow that pattern: lots of anticipatory dread followed by a sweet sense of freedom.  Alas.Watching my children come and go has not been like that.

Oh, there are compensations… the hallway not littered with 15 pairs of sneakers; the organized coat closet; less towels to wash; a revolutionized relationship with the fridge. I always know where the car keys are. These are not small things!

Then we adopted Finn. Adorable, lovable Finn. Hyper, sheddy, anxious Finn. It doesn’t matter, but I can’t tell if his role is to distract me from the empty nest or to ruin it.

There’s the constant vacuuming. A perpetual sense of disgust about our couch (the slipcover is always untucked and frequently dirtied with paw prints). Furthermore, his needs have kept me tethered to the house, so much so that I’ve taken to referring to last year as “My Year Under House Arrest” (compounded by all that snow here in Boston).  Not exactly the ‘freedom of the empty nest’.

And then of course, there’s my sister.

Even so, my world has radically changed. It’s disorienting. Isn’t something dramatic supposed to happen — a good, long cry? a brand new sense of self springing off the shelf? the resumption of some old, long-missed sense of self? On the other hand, there is the abiding sense of normalcy: this, after all, is what is meant to happen.
These images were in a draft file — posts I keep plundering while our computer undergoes major overhauls. They still feel relevant, though, with that shadowy sense of things slipping out of my grasp. The figure looks determined, her pose intentional, but I cannot decipher her meaning, nor can I tell whether she achieves her purpose or not.

Perhaps she’s wearing ballet slippers and moving from first position to second position. Maybe she’s casting a spell. But mostly, I wonder if she is reaching out to hug someone who is not there.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed dancing my heart out to Uptown Funk this afternoon. It isn’t something I would’ve done with the kids upstairs, don’t ask me why.

Gathering and missing

Made dinner for five friends last night, all of whom I met at the boys’ elementary school. We’ve served on committees together, been in overlapping books groups, supported campaigns, carpooled to music lessons, watched Super Bowls together, celebrated the kids’ and our birthdays, attended Bar Mitzvahs. You get the picture. With children aged 17 to 28, talk invariably ran to how our lives change as our offspring take off. It was good to articulate some of that, and to hear others’ experiences. There is so much commonality with this.

It seems that something shifts about one to one and half years in. We shall see.

Here is what missing my boys looks like this morning. Pix from their rooms.
Off to the ‘Witch City’ (aka ‘Salem’), where it is Halloween all month long. Arg! I hope I will be able to find a place to park. One of my sister’s neighbors has taken to walking everywhere so as not to lose his spot. Wish me luck!

2010 – shopkeepers in Salem, MA

Call me a notebook nerd!

How I love September!  The air gets deliciously cool and sweaters are pulled out of closets with a sense of cozy relief.  I feel this way every year.  For as long as I can remember.

I like the sense of new beginnings wrapped up in the anticipation of winter.  I like the way the the shortening of the days seems to mandate a quiet looking inward. I like how the trees disrobe. I like (gasp!) Christmas shopping.  I really do.

Did I miss going to Staples with one or both of the boys last week?  I don’t think so.

I took part in that crazed shopping ritual every September for more years than I want to count, so its absence WAS noticeable.  Another marker of change.  But to stand in lines sometimes stretching from the register all the way to the back of the store, because I, like so many others, had waited until nearly the last minute?  Ugh.  To anxiously check the list and the items in the cart, hoping we selected the right size or color index cards and the exactly specified composition book?  No, I didn’t miss it.

I can go next week.  Or, not at all.  But, probably next week, because what is September without the purchase of some snazzy new notebooks and a dozen or so workhorse pens (I prefer Bic blue medium point).

Okay, so I AM a notebook nerd.  I probably buy everyone on my gift list a blank book at least every other year, because I can’t help buying them and because to me, they would be a welcome gift.  Tell me to stop!

I cleaned the boys’ rooms this week, partly in anticipation of company, partly as a way to acknowledge their absences.
Well, and in C’s case — in the service of hygiene.  I was so relieved to discover a very old plate of pulled pork on his keyboard tray (oh god, it was gross!).  Relieved, you ask?  Well, yes, because that meant that there was not, in fact, as I temporarily supposed, a mouse corpse wedged between inaccessible joists behind the desk (mice take about two weeks for their stink to rot away).

With the cool air on Sunday (hallelujah, rain storm!), I could run the fans all day and refresh the whole upstairs.
I let this dinosaur have his way with the fruit bowl — in honor of days gone by.  Some things I will save forever!

Pretty soon, sedum will be stealing the show.



Corn guy and Womb

Funny to be weaving “fall” when it got so sticky hot here today. This guy got his start on a napkin-basket-loom.  I was trying out some things from the weaving class with Jude Hill (Spirit Cloth, side bar), and sort of having fun.  The warp caught in the grooves of the basket edges and stayed put well enough, but I could only use tape to secure it on the back, so it got loose in places — sometimes to the point of near unworkability.
Mostly today I pieced rectangles of cotton together, pressed the seams one way or the other, and enjoyed the cool of my basement.  I ran the fan all day to churn some of the mildew smell out the back door. That sounds awful but it wasn’t. It was a nice retreat after two very intense weeks of travel and settling the boys in.
In fact, the cool quiet of the cellar was perfect for my first ‘official’ day of the empty nest — a day that found me tired, disoriented, a little sick, and in real need of silence. I stitched a linen frond to the woven island piece (above, left) and excavated some of the sections representing Africa from the Middle Passage series (above, right)In the little square above, I put some of the ‘Ghost House’ remnants next to fabrics being used to designate ‘Strange Fruit’ in the ‘White House of Privilege’ series. A panel with a moon stitched on it is being blown sideways by the fan.  I like that almost more than anything else! Middle Passage scraps partnered with Ghost House piecing (above). Reading the recent ‘Atlantic’ article, ‘The Case for Reparations’ (by Ta-Nehisi Coates) has got me thinking about all this again (as if the events in Ferguson, Missouri weren’t prompt enough)…And all these tiny little ‘doodles’ wanting a home. The grid has one inch squares, so you get the scale.
I’ll close with a few pix from Vermont.  We camped at a state park located on an island in Lake Champlain.  We did this to save money, but it was really wonderful!  So quiet. So pretty.

The weather was perfect, and it was nice, as it turns out, to break up the drive and the border crossing over separate days. Since we’ve had some really nice visits to Montreal, including a few memorable dinners, there was no feel of a pauper’s compromise in this plan — none at all. Look at those skies!!

Fire and Water – a poem

Fire and Water

Well then imagine the delight
A celebration of their leaving
A real washing gladness
Fluttering wings to spray water there
Unsought, unbidden, unforced
The rightness of their leaving

To overcome the changes,
how the glow highlights a cheek.
All these years
the beach-tired kids pile rocks in a ring

I marshal scant stores of optimism

Under the hawthorn tree
amid spaded greenery
a real washing gladness
unsought, unbidden, unforced.
There, in the bowl, a celebration of light,
a robin! Dusty grey wings
underslung by its carroty-rust breast
The ancient sway of the elements.

Wood lath strapping criss-
crossed. I leave,
to flick off flood lamp, retreating.
The fire takes.
Ageless hypnotic source
softening ribcage, relaxed gaze,
setting down of worry
communal, together by fire
mammals through and through
on the verge of everything.

The seated shadowed young, facing
a crackle. More crackles.
Retreating. I did not expect
to be taken up
ever so needed as it happened
soon to be gone.
Busy but not busy enough
To drive up. His list: clip-on fan,
shower tote. An invitation
to the ancient sway of the elements.

I don’t try to read their expressions
all the things I’ve wanted to do
a place hung together by tired kids
a setting down of worry – remind
me – ascendancy to the deeper
ageless fire, softening of ribcage
evenings and the briny refreshment
The driveway, the shoes in the bin
boy/manhood that over spills
water on a sunny day
on a whim in the front garden
the large glass bowl
its delight flapping,
unsought, as it happened
Scant stores of resolve. Remind me
please. The fire takes. Mammals
through and through
Grass scraped from the center
Kids pile rocks in a ring
The fire takes
Cerebral connections lose to
the deeper sway of the elements.

I don’t try to read their relaxed
gaze. The fire crackles,
highlights a cheek, a place,
a chair appears. His list: a clip-on fan,
A shower tote.
Hunks of citrine and rose quartz
for his new life
cause me to trip
well then imagine the delight
a real washing gladness
unsought, unbidden, unforced
to drive up the next morning and see
boy/manhood wings
signature breast, fluttering wings
The rightness of their leaving
The quiet that will follow
Under the hawthorn
amid the long-spaded greenery
A deduction in other words
dropped, to be taken up, imagine!
An invitation to all the things
I’ve wanted to do –
flick off the flood lamps
setting down of worry
together by fire.

Along the side, he gathers his
A shower tote, a hunk of citrine.
Trip. Worry. Chant. Overcome
the changes fluttering wings
the quiet that will follow
criss-crossed scraped shadowed
unforced red-knotted beads
count them, remind me please, all
the things I’ve wanted to do?
As if the nervous system
ever so needed, a washing gladness
I marshal a wiggle of fire, peer
out the glass, how the glow
highlights a cheek plane
Ascendancy. Their being on
the verge of everything.

While it’s true that Toy Story Three will make a parent on the edge of the empty nest cry, I took some satisfaction when this unpolished response to a prompt made someone in my writing circle cry.