I feel like I’m in some kind of time warp. This time last year, all five of my kids were in good places in their lives. Happy. Healthy. Good jobs, good lives. I wrote about it here: March 31, 2015, because Chris was moving out, heading into the life he’d worked really hard to make. Years and years of struggle, pain, anxiety, depression, and he was happy. Really happy. Everyone was.
Then came June and he was gone. Just like that.
And, just like that, everything started to rewind. My youngest daughter, who’d been happy both professionally and personally, suddenly found herself in bad situations with both. My oldest son and his then fiancee lost their apartment when the owner decided to sell. He, she, a dog and two cats ended up moving in here. Both daughter and son struggled through personal and professional debacles. We helped them all we could, lent a hand when they reached out for one and (hopefully) stepped out of the way before boundaries were crossed. Our lives were suddenly and once again complicated with children now adults and their adult problems. And then there was the grief. Such intense grief for all of us. Our two oldest have families of their own, and I think they largely escaped the whirlwind in this house, even if they still had to deal with their grief.
Around the turn of the year, things seemed to halt their careening rewind and, after a pause for breath, started winding forward again. Daughter got a new apartment, settled in a good working situation, and fell in love. Son and his fiancee hit a rough patch that ended in a break-up I don’t think either of them saw coming. She took the dog. He kept the cats. And now he’s the one moving out. To Portland, Oregon. He’s taking the chance he didn’t take several years ago when his bandmates headed west. He’s on his way right now.
And here we are, once again: empty nesters. I’m thrilled son is off on the adventure he not only wants, but needs. I’m ecstatic daughter is happy in Brooklyn. But Chris…he’s not out on his own, living his life. The nest emptied in a way I can’t be happy about.
I truly am looking forward to being just me and Frankie D. To the relative quiet, to the freedom of being responsible for only ourselves on a daily basis. We all love our kids, but no one can dispute that things get quieter once they’re out of the house. This time last year, I was excited about that quiet. After that massive rewind, I can’t say I’m excited. I’m…heedful. There’s no going back to that innocence, the wonder of a life opening up and spreading out before me like a gift. I see the shadows now, the little ruts and ridges on the path that warn, “Don’t go too fast! Watch your step! There are bears in these here woods!”
But here I am, on that path I’ve been looking forward to since I had my first baby, because I’m not the kind of mom who ever wanted to keep her kids forever. I didn’t wish my babies back, or “endure” their teens. I have been madly in love with them through every stage in their lives. I still am. It’s just that our nest isn’t the same kind of empty it was this time last year. It’s got a ragged hole where one fell out rather than flew.
The forward momentum continues despite the ruts, ridges and bears. I head into my future a little more warily, but no less optimistically. Because there are flowers in the wood, too, and treasures along the rutted path. The benefit of treading a bit more carefully is that I’ll spot them more often than I otherwise would have.