Empty Nest

Robert’s review: A subject near and dear to my heart.  The nest is now empty, though I am sure a dog will be in our near future to help fill the void.  However, nothing stored in the basement is useless, it’s all valuable and I am sure our son looks forward to the day when it is all his.

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The new guy-way back when

They go away…eventually.  This is the natural order of things.  Remember when they were an abstract person?  Remember when they finally arrived and changed your life forever.  Nothing was ever the same again.  You or you and your partner lived differently in that other era.   You think that former, care-free lifestyle will never return.  And you would be correct.

Raising offspring consumes your attention, finances, emotions.  Worry becomes a well-worn companion.  Life seems to be a nonstop drama full of every possible raucous energy and conflict.  Then it’s over.  At least that version of it.

My son moved away to live his own life, independently of us.  As I hugged him at the airport, I reminded him that he will always be my baby.  He laughed.  His dad gave him the command that from now until the end of my life, he must call me on a weekly basis.  That’s all I needed to say.  It is all up to him now.  On the way home from the airport, we started planning the changes we would make to the room he’s been occupying for the past ten months, since he graduated from college and finished his last summer job.  We don’t need to eradicate his presence from our lives (all his stuff is in boxes in the basement) so much as train ourselves for moving on.

When we cleaned out his room, we found a letter he had received from a child who had attended either the after-school program or the summer camp where he had been working.  The letter made us tear up a bit.  It said how our son made this little girl feel welcome.  How she knew he would make a great teacher, if he wanted that, since he was so helpful and showed her such kindness.  If we had any misgivings about his move back to Colorado, where he had gone to college, we were assured that our kid was a kind and loving person and would always make his way in any endeavor he chose to pursue.  We were all in the right place.  Our kid was moving away to another state to be with his girlfriend and find his way in the world and we were moving back to a two-person household. 

Through the basement door

A quick transition can be difficult, like ripping a band-aid off a fresh wound.  We decided to turn the now-spare bedroom into my work room.  I had a few weaving, drawing and sewing projects in mind.  Hauling the bed downstairs to the basement required some strategic knowledge of physics. Our basement stairway is narrow and steep and once at the bottom, there’s barely enough room for a person with a laundry basket to maneuver into the wood shop, around the woodworking facilities and on over to the laundry.  Upstairs, the open basement door takes up the whole hallway!  So, out the front door, drop the mattress over the side of the rock wall onto the driveway.  Grab-drag it into the back yard where we directed its descent through the outside, walk-in basement door, through the wood shop and into the recently vacated rec room (aka mad-wife room).  Twice.

Work room

 We wanted the futon, a large, well-constructed arrangement purchased in the pre-child era, which had occupied the now-vacant rec room, upstairs in my workspace.  A futon is more complex than a mattress.  It has moving parts and the heavy frame is awkward to move great distances.  Following a reverse of the trail we had forged moving the mattress and box spring, we tied down the moving parts and lifted the wood frame for a grimacing shuffle down the driveway, out into the street to our neighbor’s driveway (to avoid the stairs from the road to the yard) and onto our own lawn.  Up the stairs to the front porch and into the front door required a Herculean effort.  Does anyone else notice that Herculean and hernia start with the same first few letters?   There must be a connection there.  Once through the door, we managed to get a rug under the thing and dragged it into the hallway, where we came to an abrupt halt.

Shoving the unruly futon mattress into the hallway

 Our house is tiny. The futon is long. Consequently, furniture transitions from room to room or around a tight corner are awkward and perilous to walls, woodwork and fingers.  If the futon frame had been an inch shorter or our hallway had been less-confined, we would have had instant success.  More physics necessary.  Eventually we just decided to tilt it on its side and slowly slide it into the room, set it down and scrape some flooring while sliding it into place.  We rested.  The futon mattress was next.  It is like moving a bloated eel.  Finding purchase on the dead weight of a humpback whale would be easier.  The mattress is smooth with no hand holds.  Its only virtue is its bendability.  We slumpy, slippy-slided that corpse of a giant mollusk up the back steps, into the kitchen, pummeled it into a configuration that allowed its passage around a stingy corner, and then slid it down the hallway and into the room to heave it onto the waiting frame.

Pikachu

Gasping and sweating with lower backs throbbing, we collapsed, fully conscious of the departure of our youthful workforce, in an endeavor which taxed us to our muscular limits.  In lieu of a comfort animal, I hugged a stuffed Pikachu, which I found in the back of the closet, reminiscing about our visit to the Pokémon 10th Anniversary celebration 13 years ago.  It felt like a mere puff of time, a shared experience that only just recently happened.   I missed more than the helpful strength.  The conversations about the politics of Bernie, the awesome instrumentations of Streetlight Manifesto and virtues of Asheville versus Boulder would henceforth be minimal.  Then again, so would our grocery bill.

Storage for all

My kid has a new (used) car and a full-time job in a place he loves along with a girl he adores.  What more could we want for our offspring?  The move blindsided us, so we would suggest that we would have preferred better planning, since we were stuck with selling the old jeep which served him well in both Colorado and here in North Carolina.  We boxed up the stuff he wanted to keep, but could not take on a plane.  Like many parents of young adults, we are the designated storage unit.  What are the rules for this?  My plan is to buy a used suitcase and fill it with his stuff so that each time he visits he’ll be obligated to carry back a bunch of crap he probably doesn’t want.  Or maybe I’ll build a bonfire in the backyard each time he visits.  I’ll suggest he whittle down some of the stash of stuff in the basement or up it goes.  Of course, this plan of action is dependent on his returning to visit.

 This scheme might serve as a reckoning for us as well.  There’s a plethora of our own crap down there.  Maybe we’ll be those elderly parents who fill up the basement with useless memorabilia, family heirlooms, broken furniture, used up lightbulbs, and newspapers we’ve kept since 1979.  He will find himself confronted with this domestic assemblage when we move on to that next adventure or we move to Mexico or something and leave him the house.  That’ll teach him.

With one less mouth to feed, we’ve been going out to eat more often.  We’ve adopted a cavalier attitude toward admission prices and buying the good wine and chocolate.  We’ve left town a few times to wander around our new state and have signed up for the river cleanup and theater tickets.

River clean up

Perhaps we have moved closer to that former care-free lifestyle we had before the kid came into our lives.  Still, I hope he’s eating right and getting enough sleep.  We eagerly await the commanded phone call each week.   I’m holding the Pikachu hostage, leverage for the next visit.  My formerly abstract person has a life of his own now, and I am coping with his departure by envisioning his own future little abstract beings.  Did I mention there’s a girlfriend? 

Everything in its own time,

Cheryl

Guest Editor Robert tells me that an eel is not a mollusk.  I tell him it’s a metaphor.  He thinks I have used too many metaphors for describing a futon mattress.  I tell him there is no such thing as too many metaphors.  He looks at me like I’m the last person to jump from the Titanic.  I remove one of the metaphors.

10 Comments

  1. Ah. Empty nest. Ours filled up with the elder generation. My back started hurting reading about moving the futon. We had one of those! Great story telling! And stuff in the basement… Argh. Enough said! 😉

    • Your situation with the previous generation’s accumulation has made me determined to get rid of as much stuff as possible. It is still a lot of work but I’d rather do it now than leave its ugly mess behind for the kid to deal with.

      • My mother had no problem disposing of my left-behinds. A few short years, or perhaps decades, after vacating the old homestead, she informed me that all my cherished possessions had gone to a church garage sale. I couldn’t believe that my model planes and probably priceless 1960 vintage 45 rpm records were no more. As luck would have it, though, I got over the loss fairly quick.

        • My own mother did the same thing! I was outraged. I had an original Barbie which was probably worth a few bucks. I may hang on to the kid’s stuff for awhile in case there’s something worth millions in there.

  2. Dig it!
    Fly, my friends! Be free! …sort of…

  3. My kids have been out of the nest, but close by. My daughter is moving to Portland, Oregon tomorrow. Great opportunity for her, sad for the rest of the family and her parents! My friend just sent me a text. “Well, we give our kids wings to fly, so look what a great job you did!”

    • Oh, that’s so far away! Hopefully she will have time to come back to visit! Does she know anyone there? Did she move for a job? Do I sound like a mom?

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