Monday, July 5, 2010
It happened accidentally. A series of events led us down a twisted path to the moment last Friday, when all of my children rode away in a van together, headed to another state, without me or my husband.
That fact alone was hard enough to process. Then I came home to a very quiet house and reality hit. Not only were they all gone away, without me to watch over them, but hubby and I were here alone, with no kids to juggle, for five whole days. For the first time in eighteen years.
It started innocently enough. Cousins were flying in to visit Grammy in New Hampshire. Grammy asked if my two youngest would want to come play too. So we made plans for hubby to drive them up to join the party. Then my daughter offered to take a few days off work and drive them, so she could join in on the fun. It didn’t hurt that most of the plans revolved around sitting on a beach in Maine for the holiday weekend.
I was all in favor of this new plan and we all started joking about how the one son left at home would feel like he was the only thing standing in the way of mom and dad having an ‘at home’ honeymoon. Then suddenly an aunt and uncle in New Hampshire, who love to run as much as my son does, suggested he come climb some mountains with them. Sister could drop him off on the way to Grammy’s and pick him up on the way back.
It sounded like a great idea. All four kids had an opportunity to make some classic summer memories with relatives they love. It’s the reason we moved back East, from Utah, after all. To be around these fun people and give my kids a chance to know them better. My head was all for this plan. It was my heart that put up a last minute fight.
It all came spilling out in a moment I am not proud of. I found myself tearing into hubby about something silly. He was a bit shocked that I was getting so riled up about which car daughter should take to work. Then suddenly it all came spilling out. Tears and hugs and “I’m sorrys”, as I finally realized how terrified I really was about letting my whole nest fly away at once.
I’ve been in mom mode for so long it’s hard to just let it go. It sounds ideal, five days of ‘vacation’, with no hotel bill to put on the credit card. A chance to have down time in my own comfortable environment. Time to write. No meals to make. But my day to day life has always been geared around these people I’m responsible for. First they were babies and toddlers. Now they are mostly teens. Different issues but always in need of mothering.
It’s been two days now. The weirdest thing is how things don’t change. I clean up the kitchen at night and when I get up in the morning, it’s still clean. I come to my computer in the morning and all my notes and pens are in the exact same spot I left them the night before. No ipod cords to wrangle. No snack wrappers or stray cups from kids who checked their facebook pages late at night before they went to bed. I no longer trip over video game controllers or rock band instruments. The colorful plastic guitars remain lined up along the bookcase, right where I placed them on my first kid-less night.
The kitchen cabinets have not been picked clean. I had a bowl of Apple Jacks one day and there were still Apple Jacks left the next day. Truly hard to believe. There is actually milk in the fridge. I’m sure the clerks at my local quick stop wonder if I’ve moved away since I have not purchased my daily gallon of milk in four days.
We lay in bed at night and watch TV and I spend the whole time thinking I hear one of the kids coming in the back door. I do a run down in my head of who’s been out that night, so I can guess who might be popping their head in our bedroom door to say goodnight.
Then I realize there are no children living here right now, and the sounds I heard, or maybe imagined, were probably just the dog, wandering the house, wondering where all the people ran off to.
I try not to think about the mom things. How three of my babies are on a sunny beach and if they don’t get sunscreen in every spot, they’re going to be miserable for days to come. I don’t think about riptides and jellyfish and how both like to reach out and grab little boy legs. I cannot, and I mean cannot, let myself ponder the fact that my baby boy, who is years past being an actual baby, is going to bed every night without a hug and kiss from his mama.
I have found peace by thinking of it as temporary empty nest syndrome. A quick glimpse into what our life might look like once all the kids have flown the coop. I am closer to understanding the awkwardness I’ve heard newly retired people mention.
The first day, hubby and I wandered around, in a pattern you might be tempted to call aimless. Both TVs and the computer were suddenly wide open, no lines to wait your turn. But we didn’t want to watch TV or go online. And it was almost too quiet to read.
The kids had our good van, leaving us with the ‘get around town van’ that has almost two hundred thousand miles on it, so any long drives on back roads were out of the question. So we did what is always our default mode when we don’t know what else to do. We started working on the house.
Maybe that makes us look (and feel) like old people, but so far it’s worked for us. Hubby’s installing trim in several places around the house that have waited so patiently to be finished. I’ve been organizing the kitchen cabinets and keeping him company.
Then at nights we sit on the couch, holding hands and watching movies we didn’t have to preview for nine year old eyes. We are falling into a nice rhythm of ‘us’ again. The way we used to be before all these new little people fell into our lives.
Don’t get me wrong. I will be over the moon when that van pulls back into my driveway in 56 hours and 29 minutes. I can’t wait to hug every one of them, the smallest to the tallest.
And having a gap of ten years between our oldest and our youngest means our nest won’t truly be empty for a very long time still. But it’s been fun, for a bit, to go back to just the me and him. And be reminded that we really do like to just be together.
After all, it’s the reason we ended up setting out on this adventure in the first place.