Voices come in every color. There are screechy ones and soothing ones. Some are loud, some are whiny, some are commanding, some are just wimpy. Voices warn. Some have stories to tell. Some inspire confidence, some scare, some encourage. Some yell, some shout, some sing.
I like the singing ones. They open a whole other spectrum of their own: sopranos, bassos, tenors, altos, baritones. I love to hear the voices together when they are in tune and in sync with each other. When they're not.... ew, not so much. That can get kinda horrifying.
Sometimes they are saying things we really should be listening to. Some voices have important things to say. Some voices only think they do. But what every voice wants is...a voice!
The main thing that I want is to have a voice, which I don't always feel like I have, and the main thing I want from/for my voice, is that I want it to be heard.
"LOOK! A deer!" That's what my children used to shout while pointing out the window, to DISTRACT me from something they didn't want me to see. That was a long, long time ago, when they were little kids at home, but it hung on. It is now a cherished family joke, and still gets dragged out now and then when someone wants to distract.
I am very visually-oriented, so looking is important to me. I look so much better than I hear, although I'm not sure I always see as well as I look. I think it's interesting that I can look at something and not see it. Or that I can look at something and see something different from what the person next to me sees when he looks at the very same thing. An extra set of eyes is always good to have.
When I look I often see exactly what I want to see. Or maybe I see only what is glaringly obvious. If I don't make the effort to discern what I'm really looking at, I see only what is on the outside. Sometimes that's dangerous, especially when calling judgments on other people.
Every day I am thankful that God doesn't only see what is on the outside of me, but that He sees what is on my heart. He sees what I really mean and what I really am, which I do not always communicate clearly.
When I was a kid, I thought pretty much what every kid still thinks. Namely that "when I'm grown up and can do what I please..."
It did not take very long at all for that lie to rear its ugly head. About two minutes after I became grown up, I started taking on responsibilities.
First it was a job. I had to get myself to and from work. And pay taxes for Pete's sake. That sure never figured in my blueprint.
Next thing I knew, I had to buy my own shampoo and toothpaste. I never saw that coming either.
Pretty soon it was a husband. So much for doing what I please.
Then kidlets. The ultimate (though voluntary) slavery. I not only couldn't do what I wanted, my entire existence seemed to twist itself around to focus on doing everything they wanted. Day after day, I gave my life over not to what I pleased, but to what I must: the nurture and development of four marvelous creatures.
And one day...Enter the Empty Nest. Now there is no one prying my eyelids open if I happen to sleep past 7am. Now I am free to go to bed any time I want, without having to wait on the last kidlet to come home. We can have milkshakes for dinner if we want to. If I suddenly get a notion to take off someplace, I am off without having to find four jackets and prod four reluctant kidlets to visit the bathroom before we leave the house.
It's true, there is a lot of freedom in the Empty Nest. The trouble is that now it just seems like a lot more trouble than it's worth. We no longer need or even want all that freedom. Like so many things, it came around too late. The reality is, that now that we can run around the house naked, we forgot why we wanted to.
My pre-Empty-Nested life included frequent trips to MoreMart, sometimes multiple trips in one day, because somebody alllllways needed something.
We made regular bulk purchases of socks and underwear, blue jeans and t-shirts, and pickles by the gallon. Shoes, coats, gloves, school supplies, soap, shampoo... And those were the bare necessities. When you added in the games, toys, seasonal fun, electronics, craft items, office supplies, towels, sheets, household items, and yard things...oh, my, it was just Open Season on the wallet.
And don't forget food!!! The most basic necessity of them all kept me running from MoreMart to the co-op to the farmer's market to the grocery store, often with a mile-long list in one hand, and a collection of coupons in the other. No doubt about it, shopping is a serious proposition, especially when you have a house full of kidlets.
I am not a shopper. Not by any remote stretch of the imagination. I'd rather take a beating than go shopping. And now I don't have to. We no longer buy anything with any sort of regularity. Shoes and clothes can go years without needing to be replaced. Household things never wear out. Personal items are no more than ever-so-occasional purchases. It is not at all unusual, now, for a month or more to go by without me having to see the inside of a MoreMart. I do wander over to the grocery store a little more often, but food is no longer consumed in frantic quantities, so even that has taken on a somewhat leisurely pace.
Yes, the Empty Nest has its rewards which are often bittersweet, but here, at last, is one pure, unadulterated pleasure: Shopping is Optional.
I don't mind doing laundry. At least not the washing part. I have sorters in the laundry hall room where the clothes patiently wait until they have enough company to make a whole load. I have a snazzy, tech-y, golly-gee-whiz, high-efficiency, electronic marvel of a front-loader with a control panel that would give the space-shuttle a run for its money and a not-so-fancy drier, because given the choice I opt for the low-tech, old-fashioned clothesline in the back yard. There's nothing quite like stepping out of the shower into an honest towel smelling of fresh air. Or going to bed at night on a sunshine-scented pillow.
But folding! And putting away! EEK! For years I had a resident laundry-folder, but 14 years ago she took a one-way ticket to her own laundry heaven, and ever since...it's on me. I don't even mind folding soooo much. But putting away...! There's nothing quite like it. Not in a good way.
Invariably, with disturbing regularity, comes the day when the Man is getting dressed and he can't find his socks. Or his underwear. Or his pj's, pants, shirt, you-name-it. Then I have to go dig it out of the basket where it has taken root. This isn't always so much fun, especially when the day in question is a work day at 5 o'clock in the morning. You haven't really lived until you try to find a pair of matching socks in the dark with your eyes halfway closed and your brain half asleep.
Still, things can always be worse, and so far, he's been lucky enough that his clothes are at least cleanly in the basket. He has never yet had to turn something inside out and wear it the 2nd time.
Laundry, once a dreaded 2-3x-a-day chore, now takes the leisurely pace
of 2-3x a week. In the pre-Empty-Nested world, laundry was frantic and
relentless. But now ... it isn't anything that can't be put off another
Dinner time is time to let out a big sigh. It's time to reflect and reconnoiter and regroup. And when you have kidlets at home, it's time to try to make them allll happy, and good luck with that. The more you have, the iffier the pleasability factor gets. As long as you have more than one person to feed, I guaran-dang-tee somebody is going to complain about something.
I can probably count on one finger the number of recipes that were universally liked around here, and even that turned out to be an overly optimistic illusion delusion which I did not discover until the last kidlet was in college. That one recipe, like most of my recipes, was sized to feed an Army, so I had quit making it after everyone left home, and I looked forward to resurrecting it on one of Kidlet #4's infrequent visits home.
Sure enough, his first day home, when I got the ever-dreaded question..."What's for dinner?" I was excited to reply, "Noodles Mexicano," only to hear, "That stuff makes me sick." AAAaagggghhhhh.... So x another one off the list. Way to burst my bubble.
Now the Empty-Nested Dinner, that's different. First off, if we don't feel like dinner ... well, we don't. Maybe a bowl of popcorn or an apple, especially if we ate lunch at the all-you-can-eat buffet (not that I can eat all I can eat anymore). Some days, instead of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we could have brunch and lunner. I can try new recipes without opposition. I'm not saying the Man likes everything, but after 38 years I have him trained, and he knows he doesn't have to like it; he just has to eat it.
The ultimate freedom/luxury has to be ... we might decide to have banana splits for dinner one night. We don't like banana splits, but the point is ...we could do it if we wanted to.
It's Friday! Five-Minute Friday! How could I forget???
Well, yeah, maybe because today I have to change three bank accounts over to e-banking. That oughta take all day right there. Wash the sheets, clean the bathroom, mop the floor, get the bank deposit ready, clean out the refrigerator, figure out what's for dinner tomorrow when we will have a difficult guest with, uh... dietary issues. Then I will have to make the list and shop. And arrange a sleeping place for said guest. I have, almost literally, a TON of papers to file, four checkbooks to balance, and bajillion phone calls to make. Of course, can't forget to check facebook! Do the church bulletin, update the church calendar, write some birthday cards, clean off the table...that guest is getting more troublesome by the minute...and clean off the desk. It's a good thing my friend just called to cancel our breakfast date for tomorrow. Whew! One bullet dodged! And the tax extension from waay back in April, guess what, six months went by like that! Sunday is potluck dinner, so there's another kitchen plan. Call grandma, get the payroll tax ready, change the a/c vent, clean out my purse. In lieu of a "workout" maybe I will RUN to the post office. And if I get a chance to sit down today (after I get up from here, of course), maybe I will paint my toenails.......
Darlene's funeral was today. It was time to have lunch with the family and visit with old friends. Time to acknowledge the loss and cry together.
During the funeral service, Heaven opened up and POURED! At first I thought it was the sound of the a/c, but it got louder and louder, and soon it was a roar not to be mistaken. We could see solid sheets of water pouring down the outside of the stained glass windows.
Some people might think rain is the perfect weather for a funeral because the gloom of the weather matches the gloomy mood of the assembly. But I think it's perfect because rain is my favorite weather. It was Darlene's favorite weather, too. The last time I saw her we sat in her room and watched the rain out the window. I turned to her and said, "I hope it rains in Heaven." A delighted look came to her eyes and she smiled, "I never thought about that, but I hope it does, too!"
So it rained. One of the granddaughters got up and talked about how she will think of her grandmother every time she sees the rainbow. Then it stopped, and by the time we got outside, things were clearing right up.
We got in the procession for the 35-mile drive to the cemetery where Darlene was going to be buried next to her grandparents and her middle son, and we worried about slogging through the mud at the cemetery, but as we got closer we could see that the rain had not extended that far away. So sighs of relief all around.
As we drove around a bend I happened to look off toward the direction from which we had come. And waaay back there, over in a distant corner of the sky....a rainbow glowed.
One of the signs of the seasons is the changing of the wardrobe. Even in Texas, summer shorts have to make way for jeans and sweaters, though t-shirts retain their most-favored status all year long.
In Empty-Nested life this isn't a big deal. Swap out a few flannel shirts for some short-sleeved shirts, get out the thermal underwear, and call it good. It takes all of maybe an hour, if I color-coordinate the closet while I am at it. But in the past, with four kidlets to outfit and re-outfit, it took on the look and feel of a marathon.
A few chilly days ago I went to visit C and was met in the yard by her four little kidlets wearing shorts and t-shirts. I was informed by one and all that the reason they were wearing shorts was that mom had failed to get out the jeans and sweatshirts.
Things have been rather busy in their house the last few weeks, so I decided to help out and sponsor the biannual Style Show. This means we go in the garage and get out all the boxes holding out-of-season clothes and try them alllll one.
I like clothes. Not the way most people do. I like the feel of the textures and the weight in my hands. And of course the colors. I like to mix and match them, and I especially like to think of the warmth and comfort they will provide for some small person. I suppose I should qualify that statement to say I like children's clothes. They are full of all sorts of promise when you consider the wearer.
Children's clothes have the added benefit of variety. Adult clothes, at least in our house, stay the same year in and year out. Some years we add a new shirt or two, some years something wears out, but basically, this year's wardrobe is last year's wardrobe. Now with little people constantly on the grow, every year is a whole new world. Well, at least a part new world, and it's fun to remember how little they were last year and then imagine how much they will change by next year.
So .... on to the Style Show ... For some of the kidlets it's pure fun. For others...not so much. They change in the bathroom behind locked doors, in the coat closet, in a corner of the kitchen, or in the living room behind a complicated "screen" made up of boxes and maps and the open doors of the entertainment center. Some would rather dispense with the ordeal altogether in favor of a ping-pong game in the garage. One of them insisted that he would be happy to wear shorts all winter.
I began to run out of time, so I put away the clothes that were deemed "just right," and left the rest in piles of "too small," "too big," and some yet to try on. There is still a big job ahead, but we have made a dent, and at least now when we have a chilly day they will have a sweater to wear. If they will.
Little kids are relentless. It's no wonder we have them when we are young. It's the only way they are survivable.
Back in the early days of the Empty Nest we had a weekend visit from C and the two BB's. They were little guys, full of life and zeal and energy, and they were in love with Monga. Those little guys were Monga's boys.
When it was time for them to go home, they began to beg Monga to come home with them. He sadly told them he had to work, and it just wasn't possible. Noooo problem....then how about they stay with him? I will never forget what followed.
Monga gushed over them. He oohed and aahed. He told them, "I am sooooo happy that you boys came to see me. I am so thrilled that you invited me to come home with you. I am so excited that you want to stay with me. Let me help you get in your car seat."
He got them buckled in and they took off. He stood at the sidewalk and waved until they were out of sight. Then he walked into the house and sighed, "I sure do love those little boys. I'm going to take a nap."
It had to happen. I'm just a little surprised it took this long. With my propensity toward a wandering mind, it is ever only a question of time before it takes off down its own rabbit trail. My Man says I think too much and I talk too much and I don't stick to the subject. I concede that he is probably right. But this tangent wasn't of my making.
My friend Darlene died today. She is the dearest and most faithful of friends. She is the most virtuous of women. I have known Darlene well over 20 years, and we share four grandchildren.
Just last week she asked me to come and see her. She expressed surprise at how fast she was declining. In the last couple of weeks her prognosis had gone from "one year" to "3-6 months" and now it was at "one month." But it turned out to be only a week.
I am so thankful that I got to spend that time with her. She talked about things in the past, and how sad it made her to leave her grandchildren. She asked me to make sure I told them stories so they would not forget her. She trusted me with being the double-duty grandma. She is the best of grandmas, and it will be impossible to fill her shoes. I will give it my best.
I am thankful that God blessed her with strength and faith, and now she is finished.
Every once in awhile there is a little reprieve from the Empty Nest. It comes in the form of grandchildren, of which we have nine: five boys and four girls.
is the care and maintenance of "wood burning systems," commonly known
as "fireplaces." We (as in my dh) sweep them and clean them and fix them when
they break. It is a labor-intensive and dirty business, and we are always happy to have help. When our own boys were at home, they each had their turn at being Daddy's Boy Friday. Now they are all grown up with jobs and lives of their own, and while they are still willing to help, they are far less available, and so poor Daddy often finds himself on his own.
But...he has grandsons, and the big ones are now big enough to "earn their keep" as we used to say. They often go to work with Monga, and what a lucky break that is! They help him, he takes them to
lunch, they lift that bale and tote that barge, and they bond. They are very satisfactory helpers all, but one boy in particular is eager. He's the one that offers. He's the one that, even at home, walks into the kitchen and says, "Is there anything I can do?" That was the boy that went to work with Monga yesterday, and Monga couldn't have been happier. Because after the fireplaces and lunch at Subway, they came home, and he helped Monga clean out his trailer. Now that is a job! Cleaning fireplaces is hard work, but cleaning out the trailer...aaaaagggggghhhhhh!!!!!
No question about it...everybody should have a boy or two around the house.
This is a rerun that I wrote waaay back in August, 2009.
Is this an empty-nested world or what? I suppose technically so,
since M left over a year ago, but what with the frequent presence of the
Blue-Eyed Boy, and then having D and the two little girls living with
us for a few months, it was easy to disabuse ourselves of the notion.
the Blue-Eyed Boy has started school :-( so we do not see him as
frequently as we used to; and D and the girls have long gone to Kansas,
to be seen only on very special occasions. So "home alone" is now
pretty much the norm around here.
stubbornly remain the same: the grass still grows just as fast, dust
collects just the same, the cars still need the same amount of washing.
But other things relentlessly emphasize the empty nest:
There is no more sleeping with one eye open waiting for the squeak
of the door that announces the last kidlet's return home for the night;
Laundry, once done at the rate of 2-3 loads every day, is now done 2-3x a week;
Cooking has dropped from 2+ times a day down to once every day or two;
Even dishwashing, the once-upon-a-time, 3x-a-day dreaded chore now happens maybe once a day.
But the other day something happened that well and truly struck
home, reinforcing once-and-for-all, that the empty nest is official. It
was a simple thing, really, as turning points often are, recognizable
only in retrospect. It happened like this:
day, somewhat desperately wondering "What's for dinner?" I decided to
make an omelet. My mother taught me growing up to keep two dozen eggs
on duty at all times, and this I have done faithfully for the last 30+
years, though over the past year, it has pretty much gone to one dozen.
Well, this particular evening, I reached for the one lonely dozen in
the refrigerator only to notice the *expiration date* of August 6th.
Hm... only three weeks out of date.
And that's when it hit me: We not only don't need two dozen eggs on hand, one
dozen is even too much. I have always pitied those blue-haired little
old ladies in the grocery store buying their little six-packs of eggs to
stock their little kitchens. And now . . . NOOOOOOO . . . I am just
like them!!!! Well, not quite. I don't have blue hair. But other
than that . . . I am, sadly, too much like one of them.
Eggs . . . or the lack thereof . . . an apt measure, indeed, of an empty nest.
"WELCOME" might be the happiest word in the language. Every other
word out there can be used in more than one way, but "welcome" is only
"I am happy to see you!" "Come in!" "I'm glad you are here!" Who doesn't like to hear those words and feel those feelings? I have been to places of welcome,
and places of unwelcome, and welcome is the one you want, no contest.
Things that say "welcome":
the aroma of dinner in the crockpot when you walk in the door,
the smell of the Scentsy burner in the house,
the snap and crackle of a cozy fire in the living room,
a place to hang up your coat,
a chair to sit down in to take off your shoes and warm up your feet.
It occurs to me, looking at my welcome list, that fall is a much more welcoming season than, say summer, or maybe even spring. Spring calls you outdoors, and summer who can stand, but fall and winter invite you in. What is more welcoming than an invitation to come home...
Nighttime in the Empty Nest comes at the end of a long day of working and occasional playing. We are hot (or cold) and tired and hungry. But we wait for dinner in a civilized fashion. There's no fussing or fighting, just anticipation of (hopefully) a good dinner and then a plop into our favorite chair, or whatever it is we look forward to doing. It is Me Time. There is no need to sleep with an ear open. There will be no nighttime emergencies from the little kidlets, nor will there be any squeaking of the front door when the last big kidlet is in for the night. Uninterrupted sleep is profound and restful.
Nighttime in house full of kidlets is quite a different story. When there are kidlets in the house, evenings can get kinda stressful. The day is about over, and everyone is hungry and tired, but pre-Empty Nest,
Hungry + Tired = Cranky.
That's how it is before dinnertime. There's fighting and complaining, there's impatient waiting for dinner to hit the table, and waiting for Daddy to come home. Sometimes, the pre-dinner hour is a "CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY!" hour, but that whole thing never worked for me. If I was ever tempted to try it, I was immediately disabused of the notion by the hunch that when I came back things would be just like I left them, only probably worse.
The after dinner time goes fairly smoothly with a good routine in place. Every little kidlet of mine loved to play in the water, so unless something was seriously amiss, bathtime was funtime. Often I had to wait until the water had cooled and wrinkled their fingers and toes into prunes before I could coax them out peacefully, but once they were out there was cuddling and snuggling and fresh pj's, and life doesn't get too much better than that.
Well, except for the Bedtime Story! For someone like me, the Bedtime Story is a Highlight...it is the Crowning Touch to the End of the Day. Story books, classics, Mother Goose ... aaaahhhh ... books ... one of life's greatest pleasures.
And then sleep.
Bedtime for them was early, and they were all soundly asleep before bedtime for me came around a few hours later. Before I slept, I checked in on each of them. Made sure they were covered up. Made sure they were breathing. Made sure they were marveled over. If I happened to wake up during the night, I made a second round, but mostly, once they were nestled all snug in their beds, we did not hear from them again for the next 10-12 hours.
As much as one may (or may not) miss the hustle and bustle of kidlets, nighttime in the Empty Nest is lovely. It is dark and quiet and peaceful.
The nighttime stillness of a full house is altogether different. It is still dark and quiet, but it is alive and full of promise.
And for all that...
"There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep."
I used to have two boys in my house. I still have two boys, only now I have two men. And they are no longer in my house.
A few days ago, when I was visiting at my daughter's house, she came home from grocery shopping. At my house grocery shopping means I pull up in the driveway and start unloading, but what happened at her house, and what used to happen at my house, was that here came her 13yo big boy through the door with about half a dozen bags hanging from his hands, which made me think "hmmmm....everybody ought to have a boy or two around the house."
That put me in mind of one of my own big little boys. He wasn't such a big boy then, younger even than the current 13yo grandson, but he was big enough to raise pigs and feed chickens and hunt turkeys and kill mice and haul firewood.
We had been reading through a book together, one of those old-fashioned readers full of short stories, every one of which had a moral. The moral of one particular story seemed to be that everyone should have a boy around the house. It talked about the general usefulness of boys back in a day when children were actually contributing members of the family, unlike today when children's main purpose seems to be being entertained. My boy and I talked about all the ways he helped on the farm, and how necessary his help was.
Society already saw children as liabilities rather than assets, but on the farm there is a different way of looking at things. He was a farm boy, but he knew how town boys lived, and he was torn between being flattered about his usefulness and lamenting about how much work life requires from givers vs how much fun life offers to takers.
Now it's all behind us. We are no longer on the farm. He no longer does farm chores, but he knows how to work and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is very much a working, contributing, productive member of society.
Me...I am home alone in town, doing my own chores and bringing in my own groceries.
Tonight is Pizza Night. On the first Wednesday night of every month, our church hosts pizza night. It's a come-one-come-all evening for bonding and connecting with family and friends, and pizza.
I am one of the world's biggest pizza fans, particularly if you are talking about onion pizza. YUMMMM!!!! I could eat the whole thing and die happy.
Good pizza, and good fellowship with good company. So what's wrong? Ah...it's the kidlets. Or more accurately, it's not the kidlets. No worry, there are kidlets galore right here amongst us. Babies to teenagers and everything in between. They are fine specimens all, made in the image of God, certainly His opinion that life should go on. But, alas, they are not my kidlets, and that makes the difference.
I have learned a lot of life lessons since I became a mom waaay back in 1975. One of them is that joy shared is joy doubled, and things are generally just more fun when the kidlets are around to share.
It isn't that I don't enjoy other kidlets. It isn't that I don't
appreciate them. What it is, is that I am A Mom. A Mom Alone is
functional. She has a life. She even has a good life, though something is noticeably missing. And that's just the way it is. Because...
As an Empty-Nested parent, I have many regrets, but I am eternally thankful that wishing my kidlets' childhoods away isn't one of them.
I was never the mom that couldn't wait for the kids to leave home. I was never the mom that shouted, "Why don't you grow up???" I knew somehow, even then, that while the days were long, the years would be short, and I determined to enjoy. Or at least to endure if enjoyment eluded.
Looking back, which I do with regularity, I often find myself wondering why I did this, or why I failed to do that. It is a mystery to me today, looking back through the years with the clarity and wisdom of hindsight. Whaaaat in world could I have been thinking????? Only God knows, at this point. Only on my behalf may I say that sometimes I was so mired down I could just barely manage to function. I spent years when my only feeling was "Overwhelmed." I felt Overwrought and Overtired. Overrun. Overworked. Overdone. Overused. And all the time, the kidlets were growing up and away, surely and unstoppably dragging me closer and closer to the Empty Nest. They grew into every parent's dream. Sensible, responsible adults. Contributing, productive members of society all. I am soooo proud of them. Honored and flattered to be their mother. And if I am honest I have to own up that they succeeded in spite of me. That's a humbling thought.
It took 35 years to see the process completely through, but sure enough, one day, the years ended. And the kidlets were gone, to be replaced by those remarkable men and women.
Me...I find myself unshakably bonded with Christopher Morley, the man who confessed, "We've had bad luck with our kids - they've all grown up."
Hmm ... After much deliberation I chose "Empty Nesting." I have been in training for the Empty Nest for the last few years, and as of July, the transition is complete. It is final. It is irrevocable. There is a lot of pain in the change, and added to so many other things going on here in the last couple of years, the pain has been intense and pervasive. But I want to find hope. There are two sides to everything, so....
Empty Nest = Despair and Depression and Sadness?
Or Empty Nest = Freedom? To both questions may I say a resounding YESSSS!!!!!!