In Praise of the Empty Nest - Short Story - Non-Fiction
In Praise of the Empty Nest
For some unexplained reason, this article came to mind when deciding what to post for the upcoming American celebration of the fourth of July.
I can only credit it to the realization that the house is once again ours. No one will be creeping down the stairs to gobble down the last piece of pie in the middle of the night. There is no need to lock the bedroom door to keep inquisitive youngsters from ruining an amorous moment and best of all, at least as far as I am concerned, the house just might stay cleaner.
Hum, perhaps there should be another look at the positive sides of the empty nest. That will have to be another article at another time.
As for now, Let Freedom Ring!
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As the time drew near for my oldest daughter to gain her independence and leave home, my heart grew increasingly heavy. We had been close from the time of her birth. Her father was a military man, which meant he was absent from our lives a lot. I was barely twenty-one years old; she was just eleven months old, when we flew to Germany to join her father at his duty station. This would be our home for the next three and a half years. So there we were, in a very strange place on the other side of the world, far from family, friends, and all things familiar. It seemed only natural that we would form such a close bond.
I’ll never forget, some years later and back in the United States, the night I found her crying in her bed. I asked her what was wrong; she rolled over, sat up, and wrapped her arms around my neck. Through tears she said, “I don’t ever want to leave you mommy. When I grow up can I live in the house next door?” My heart turned to mush and I was crying too. I assured her she could indeed live in the house next door.
It seemed like the blink of an eye and we were planning a wedding, and preparing to send her two states and 600 miles away. What happened to living in the house next door? I didn't think I could stand it.
Oddly enough, as the wedding day neared, I realized that it was time for her to make her own way; to make her own home and her own family. I was proud of her independence and strength. I knew I had done all I could as a parent; now it was time to watch her spread her wings and fly. To watch her grow as an adult fills my heart with pride and joy.
My son came into this world under difficult circumstances. He had breathing problems that kept him in neonatal ICU for two days before I could see him or hold him. That pretty much set the tone for the next eighteen years. I went through torturous nights with a colicky screaming baby; teething brought more crying and screaming. Eventually we found out that he had underdeveloped eustachian tubes that caused him terrible ear pain and vertigo. Something he would outgrow . . . in time. He was fifteen months old before he could walk . . . well run, and he hasn’t stopped yet. School was never his strength; he was more interested in fine tuning his social skills than boosting his grade point average. The day he graduated from high school, I felt like I had graduated along with him. The day he graduated from basic training I was a very proud mom. He had left the nest a confused and ill prepared adolescent, but now stood before me a grown man.
My baby was fourteen years younger than her older sister, and eleven years younger than her brother; so, I knew I had a while before it was her time to leave the nest. What I didn’t know was how much my life would change before she approached independence. I went through a divorce, landed a full time job, graduated from college, and found a new husband. My baby stuck by me through all the dark storms and sunny days. I thought it would be the most painful experience when she pulled out of the driveway and headed off to college, and I’ll have to admit I did shed a few tears. Then I sighed.
A few days after she was gone I heard my husband yell “FREEDOM!” at the top of his lungs.
I thought he must be doing an impersonation of Mel Gibson’s “Brave Heart” for some reason, until I walked into the living room. There he stood, at the top of the stairs, stark naked!
“What in heaven’s name are you doing?” I asked in shock.
“Enjoying the empty nest,” he replied, wearing only a grin.
I stood pondering his statement for a moment before I started pulling off my shoes and socks.
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