7:00 AM. Someone forgot to inform my alarm clock that it is a holiday weekend. I roll over, try to recapture a dream. Someone forgot to inform my body that it is a holiday weekend; a persistent ache in my neck and shoulder scream for me to get out of bed, get moving. Besides, this is the hour of solitude those “morning people” forgot to share with night owls, like me.
The house is silent. My husband and son sleep soundly, still. I crave coffee, but to turn the coffeemaker on, early, would be to rouse the spirits with the gurgling of its percolator.
Heating water for tea seems the lesser of two evils; I’ll risk that. But tea, first thing in the morning, makes me sick to my stomach – it’s reminiscent of morning sickness, but thoughts of an impending “empty nest” have not yet driven me to an urge to recreate that particular sensation. Nor will they ever.
I opt for an herbal infusion, instead. Swedish Berries Tea, from The Coffee Bean. It is a tart, tasty mix of hibiscus, raisins, and an assorted berries that sits well on my stomach before breakfast. As I watch it steep, under the light of the microwave oven, I think about these early mornings, silence and solitude, empty nests, and what adventures the next seven years will bring us all. I begin to do those idle math calculations: when my son graduates from college, my daughter will be in her thirties. Ahh, this is my karmic reward for teasing my father, earlier in the year, with “How does it feel to have a child who is half a century old?”
Fortunately for us both, he laughed and assured me it felt “just fine.” Maybe he realized, even then, it wasn’t so much a taunt as a child’s need for reassurance that the future isn’t a dark and terrifying place. I rarely think it is, except on the mornings when I wake up too early – in the dark before the coffee’s brewed – and feel my bones settling like a house built half a century ago at the intersection of three tectonic plates.
That notion of an “empty nest” finally hit me, last week, as I sent my youngest off for his last “first day” of high school. He is a senior, now, and his thoughts have turned to college. His face is more a man’s face than a boy’s. He is quietly, but definitely, dreaming of places far from home.
I don’t worry too much about being “left behind.” I’m far too young to feel “old” or to believe that each visit might be our last. I’m no teen, deluding myself with immortality – no do I still fear being “old.” And yet, old age and dying are still things that happen to other people. That each morning’s goodbye could be our last was just as true every morning I sent them off to Kindergarten and let them cross a street. I will miss my children when they fly the nest, but unlike their grandparents and great-grandparents before me, who had the added obstacles of exorbitant long-distance charges, land-lines, and inconvenient modes of travel, we have Skype – the new lines in my children’s faces won’t be a shock to me from year to year. We have IM. We have relatively cheap airfare. And who knows – someone may actually invent a teleporter before I’m dead. Wouldn’t that be something?
I like my nest, empty or otherwise. So long as I know that my children are happy and safe, good people surrounding themselves with good experiences and more good people, I don’t need to keep them in the nest, under my wing. This has been the ultimate goal, all along: their independent adulthood. Their freedom to pursue their happiness. I hope that they always want to come home for the holidays – Groundhog’s Day and my birthday are holidays, too, right? They are always welcome and wanted, but I don’t want our home to become the “obligatory annual pilgrimage.”
My husband and I have not grown apart over all these years of parenting; our nest will never be truly “empty,” anyway. For a few days, earlier this month, my husband and son were both out of town and I had the nest all to myself. My daughter called to make sure I wasn’t lonely, but just as quickly realized the flaw in her thinking. “You’re never lonely, are you?” she said, laughing. “I’ll bet you’re enjoying this time alone.”
“Well…you know I miss them, but they’re having fun and so am I. I can’t remember ever being ‘lonely.'” I think she understands that, now – having lived on her own for a bit. I breathe solitude, like air. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the company of other people – and the company of my family, more than most; it isn’t that I don’t miss them when they’re not around. I’m just content and happy on my own, as well. I don’t need, so much as want and choose to have them in my life.
I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 1st – 7th September 2013. I wasn’t too excited by this theme of “seven,” but it’s funny what thoughts will bubble up, unbidden, to weave themselves into a given “theme.” I might make it through the week, after all.