NOW is usually my favorite time of year. The beginning hurdles of the new school year have been
And yet I can't shake the sad. I've been an empty nester for 13 months, a veteran in that department among a few of my friends, but I have no easy answers that would explain how to navigate that world. No treasure map nor operator's manual showing one how to extend a willing hand to the future while letting go of the nostalgic past. Each day is its own unique sampling of joy or angst and either can show up on my doorstep with little or no warning.
These days, any random memory of holidays with our children--when they were children-- can just as easily provoke tears as they can a smile. Those of you still in the trenches are probably asking if I
Their empty rooms are so still. Beyond silent. And despite the twice-monthly attentions of vacuum and dust rag? Musty. Much like a museum filled with relics that no one uses anymore.
Sure, Thanksgiving is coming up. The visiting offspring will arrive armed with boundless energy and stories of people I don't know taking part in events I didn't witness. They will wear clothes I didn't purchase and they will exchange secrets with each other that we, their parents, will never hear. At night they will awkwardly climb into old beds that no longer feel as though they fit and drive away the next day with leftovers and full gas tanks, courtesy of Mom and Dad. It's the least we can do and our parting benediction for children who are growing up and away with a speed that leaves me absolutely breathless.
The other day our youngest called me... bemoaning Halloween as a college student in a house with no visible vestiges of the holiday. At least, the kind he grew up with. He was throwing together a last minute costume for a party, but he said it didn't feel like the old Halloweens of his childhood. His words connoted an ersatz thank you for the years of pumpkin carving, costume making and skeleton-themed paper napkins lovingly tucked into school lunch boxes for every day in October. In that moment, we were two interlocking puzzle pieces: He with the multiple friends in costumes but no familiar (read: home-y) reminders of the holiday and me with the house full of tangible memories and themed artifacts...and no kids to enjoy it. Two people standing on separate islands sharing the same sweet memory through two tin cans and a piece of string.
Childless people are going to read this and think, "Move on, Nancy"!" They would be justified. And perhaps those who have actually lost a child are simply going to want to throw up after reading my self-indulgent drivel. I get that too. It ought to be "Hakuna Matata" around here all day long, right? Elton John singing The cirrrcle of life while we nod enthusiastically and then make the kind of weekend plans couples typically make when they only have to worry about themselves after 24 years of living life "on call". We're all okay and we have our health! It should be enough.
How ironic is it that we spend our childhood simply wishing for time to go forward and then spend the rest of adulthood wanting to go back? Maybe I'm not asking to go back and start all over again and upon reflection? I'm not. But what I wouldn't give for one last brisk autumn night in order to escort a mummy, a spider and a tiny pirate down down a leafy neighborhood street on a quest for candy.