I remember my first glimpse into the empty nest. The Consultant, Princess and I left Buddy at home to work while we vacationed in British Columbia. As we traveled west on Highway 1, it felt like our family vehicle was missing a wheel. I wrote in my journal –
July 30, 2004
This has been a funny summer so far. With Buddy working as a gate-attendant at The Calgary Stampede, he was unable to join us at the Shuswap … This feels like a transition summer, as though I’m being eased into the fact that Buddy is really growing up into a new stage.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it’s 2010 and events that truly start the process are upon us.
Buddy goes off to university. He returns home just long enough to regroup. He finds a career job then moves out to a rental. Soon, he and his gal buy a home of their own.
Princess graduates from university then flies off to the land down under for a different type of education. She learns about the world and herself then returns long enough to settle into a career, save up for and move into her own condo.
For me, the empty nest stage has been a six-year process starting with Buddy’s university year in Florida and ending last fall when Princess moved into her own townhouse only a few months ago.
I planned for her move to be a smooth transition. Given that The Consultant and I live away six months of the year, we’d accelerated the empty nest process anyway. Add that she’d been saving and planning to buy her house for the last three years, I’d seen this coming from miles away. Besides, I’d been through all this business of a kid moving out once before, so, “I’ve got this,” I said to myself.
Buddy and I were helping Princess settle into her new home when he asked, “Are you going to cry?” “I’m not telling you,” I say, trying to sound lighthearted. For some reason, I want to keep my feelings about this final step to myself. I want to be strong and I want to be happy for Princess.
On the drive home to my empty house, all I had to do was recall all of us gathered around her dining table, the clinking of those Prosecco-filled glasses and her sparkling smile as we cheered her big step into “adulting”, as she calls it. I didn’t cry. Not that day. How could I?
The actual tears were a couple of weeks prior.
Princess’s move was approaching. Emotion took me by surprise one day as she reminded me that she’d be a guest in my home the next time she came for dinner. She was standing at the front door ready to leave for work when she said it and I couldn’t rush her out the door fast enough.
I slumped down on my couch and indulged in a good cry. In that moment it occurred to me – the home I returned to during and after a work season was alive for me because she was in it. I was wishing The Consultant’s contract was complete so that he could be home to help me absorb a bit of the emotion I was feeling.
It was just the same as last time. Why did I think this would be easier?
There I sat preparing my good-byes to her mountain of shoes at the front door, her golf clubs in the living room, and her yoga mat beside the coffee table. I thought about how much I was going to miss our spontaneous chats about important and not-so-important things. Letting go is bittersweet.
Within all of this upheaval of emotion over empty nesting, there is an overarching sense of relief and pride for a job well done. How would I feel if Buddy and Princess weren’t buying houses and moving on? When I look at them I see healthy relationships. I see them handling their own challenges and only coming to their dad and me when they really need a hand or a shoulder to lean on.
Both kids live comfortably only a few neighbourhoods away. In their homes, stuff is right where they want it and they’ll find it right where they left it. Their homes are alive with them.
At my house, I’m choosing how to rearrange and fill the space Princess left, trying to place things in a way that pleases me. There’s quite a bit more emptiness than I anticipated – in the house and in me.
For now, it feels like I’ve spent twenty-seven years finding all the best ingredients to bake the most exquisite cake just to hand it off to a neighbour with hopes that they might choose to share a slice with me.
If you’ve been where I am now, you know how it is. It’s that wobbly suspension bridge of transition, somewhere between letting go and grasping onto a new exciting way. I can see glimpses of my life up ahead, just on the other side of that loosely tethered bridge.
Life changed forever, 27 years ago, when Buddy and Princess came into it. We moved over. We made room in our home and in our schedules. Now, as they move out, life changes again.
Our home still has life. The Consultant and me are ready for the next act. Before long, things will feel normal again.
So, here I am thinking about entertaining guests this weekend. Maybe I’ll call and see whether the kids can come for Sunday dinner.
“You see much more of your children after they leave home.”
– Lucille Ball
NOTE – A few readers have reacted to my title “My Very Last “Empty Nest” Post.” This is only my last post on the subject of empty nesting. I’ve still got lots of other things on my mind that I won’t mind sharing with you. 🙂 Please, stay tuned.