Shortly before Mother's Day and my birthday, the last of my progeny moved out. And when they move, they move like they are on fire. They lie around for days talking about doing something, and then, as if they had been suddenly stung by a bee, things are happening. Before I knew it, there was no one here but me and the pets. Well, ok, my husband still makes occasional evening appearances, but it's not as noteworthy, since he is contractually obligated to maintain residence here.
I had been moderately sure that, someday, they might choose to have a house of their own. Their elder brother has one, so I figured they might try to compete. However, you always think that "someday" is never going to come, so when it does, no matter how intelligent you might be, it tends to take you unawares. Since I am the original Queen of Denial, I was, to say it nicely, — surprised — to wake up one morning to a house that was suddenly larger and much quieter than it had been the day before.
My friends have been asking me if I have "empty nest" syndrome. I really don't know. I keep thinking they'll move back in at any moment, so I'm afraid to let down my guard. And they really didn't go very far. They only moved a few miles away, so they're still living in the same quadrant of the same small town we all share.
What does constitute an empty nest after all? Isn't that an existential question? Is my nest now empty, or is it now more full of unoccupied space? If a valuable and fragile family keepsake falls on the floor and no one is there to claim responsibility, is it still broken?
Frankly, I do miss my kids. They were useful. Now, when dishes need to be done, instead of ranting about how no one ever does a lick of work around this house but me and do they think the dishes do themselves if you leave them in the sink long enough (theoretically, the dishes would evolve and would, in fact, do themselves someday), I must, instead, wash the dishes. And the grass has obviously not been informed that the people who mow it are gone and so, it continues to grow at its predictable rate.
But I'm having a hard time believing that they have, indeed, moved out, because their stuff is still here. My son left two disabled vehicles, six thousand half empty bottles of motor oil and antifreeze and a stain on the carpet I don't even want to know what caused it. Oh, and his cat, who is nice enough, but does eat cat food and claw the woodwork. My daughter left four industrial strength sized trash bags of clothes sold by the GAP, more shoes than Imelda Marcos ever dreamed of and a half-spent can of hair spray. Somewhere around here, even though he's been moved out for nearly five years, I'm pretty sure my older son's best friend is still lurking. Either that, or we're haunted.
But, I digress. The important thing is that, now, we can run around the house naked. It never really stopped me before, but the conscious knowledge that I no longer need to clothe myself before emerging from the bedroom is very freeing. I suppose now would be the time to invest in mini-blinds.
Being the selfish creatures that we are, my husband and I didn't even wait for the exhaust fumes from the moving van to dissipate before we took over their rooms. All manner of technological frippery magically transported itself to my daughter's room, and junk started piling up on the (oh, did I mention?) bookcase she left behind before I even knew my husband had laid claim to her vacated space. It seems that her room is particularly open to receiving radio waves, as opposed to the garage, which is neither heated nor air-conditioned. Not that I'm finding fault. That would mean that I am, at least in my own mind, blameless.
But I am not. Before my son had packed up his last bottle of hair gel, I had moved two tables, a sewing machine and a used 27-inch Sony Trinitron into his room. And a number of feathers and a scattering of sequins. (Don't ask.)
To mark the fact that we are not just selfish, but totally selfish, we did not reserve one of the rooms as a guest room. In spite of the fact that we receive frequent visitors (we don't know why, people just randomly show up here with no place to sleep), we haven't even discussed the need for a guest bed. We have, however, discussed the fact that there is a major historical anniversary taking place a few miles from here in two years and the idea that we could take in boarders when the hotels are fully booked. The fact that we don't have a guest bed will likely not impede us. We do have a hammock and the weather in Virginia is lovely in May.
What was I talking about? Oh, right empty nest. And missing my kids. I do miss my kids. My dogs haven't been walked in a week and a half, and no one checks the mail anymore. I could do it myself, but if I did, how could I call them up (as soon as they give me their telephone number, which will happen any day now, I'm certain) and tell them how ungrateful they all are and how helpless I am?
Which reminds me. I think it's time to nag them about grandchildren. They aren't married yet, but that's ok. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Meanwhile, is anyone in the market for a beautiful 1968 Volkswagen Beetle with only half of its floorboards rusted out?
Did I mention that no one has done the dishes? Hello? Hello, hello? Damn, it's quiet in here.