It seems like eons ago, but I can remember my parents talking about the prospect of being empty nesters with a sense of wonderment and (gasp) anticipation. My dad spoke of converting my room into storage for his gargantuan stamp collection, while mom talked about being able to travel with less baggage (could she really have been talking about me?).
All of a sudden, the clock struck “18” and I was no longer flinging open the door, waltzing to my room and shouting “What’s for dinner?” on the way up the stairs.
My emancipation came with one last bill (college tuition) for my parents, who regretfully did not live long enough to enjoy an uplifting retirement.
Now my wife, Dottie, and I find ourselves on the brink of having an empty nest, and for now it is kind of ruffling our feathers.
Daughter Diane graduated from high school two years ago and is working full-time while taking night classes. She continues to live at home while saving up for the University of Vermont and a targeted fall wedding. As a result, her room will soon be empty for the first time in 20 years.
Son Mark is counting down the last days of his high school career. He will then enjoy one last carefree summer of part-time work and play before heading off to Saint Michael’s College this fall.
Another room soon to be empty.
Sure, this new real estate opens up some opportunities. Dottie could use a real sewing room. I have harbored notions of again having a pool table, though it would have to be a pretty small one to be functional in one of the bedrooms. An office? Maybe, but having an office means you should feel compelled to take work home. I do some of that already.
We’ve also thought about eventually taking in a child in need, or making sure that if an elder family member gets sick, he or she would have a secure and nurturing place to stay. Those are some good ideas, since our child-bearing days are over.
But while some of our fellow parents might be measuring their soon-to-be-vacant floor space for some new toys, we’re not exactly in a hurry to make that transition.
I have already written in this space about the dwindling number of activities remaining on our school calendar as Mark prepares to take flight for his next adventure. Now we are realizing that the pitter-patter of some fairly big feet will reverberate far less in our home beginning late this year.
No more opening the fridge and finding that last turkey leg, box of cereal and quart of milk have disappeared when you were looking forward to an afternoon snack.
No more sleeping with one eye open, waiting for the doorknob to turn late at night after they’ve been to a concert or party.
No more nagging for Miss X or Mr. Y to do the dish detail or help with the laundry piles.
No more coming home to find a young person’s vehicle in your garage space.
Hmmmmm. Maybe this college thing (minus the crushing debt) isn’t such a bad thing after all!
Naw, who am I kidding? It will be emotionally and physically draining to help Mark and Diane move as that move-out day approaches. And I have a feeling that we won’t make many changes to their rooms. They’ll need a place to stay during holidays and college vacations.
And if we got rid of the beds, where would the grandkids sleep?
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.