Saturday, December 10, 2011

Unempty Nest

It's quiet again. In fact, you could say it's the lull before the next storm. Not that slack time between the freak Halloween snow and the first real accumulation of winter, but rather that interim between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the kids have come and gone and will come again. We went from quiet home to apartment complex and back, all at headsnapping speed. It's not that we don't love our boys and welcome having them back home so we can spend time with them. Rather, it's that we've gotten used to quiet and space, and well, their visits unempty the nest.

It's true that back at the beginning the prospect of the two of us home by ourselves seemed terrifying. After all, we had spent just 4 years alone in each other's company, followed by 21 as a threesome, then foursome. So on a purely mathematical level, we had 5 times more experience thinking of ourselves as a trio or quartet as opposed to a duo. Then 3 years ago our youngest went away to school, and we were forced to sit across the table and talk to each other with no buffer. Many a relationship has faltered on far less.

But wonder of wonders, we got used to it. It wasn't better, merely different, and in this case, different wasn't necessarily bad. Yes, there were still many times where we missed a fresh point of view, or someone with an actual preference on what to make for dinner, or a person with whom to watch a movie or football game. But as we settled into new patterns, we found that there were even positive elements about our newly achieved status quo.

It's not like its anything big. After all, the boys still have their own bedrooms, which lie fallow in their absence. So from a pure space standpoint their presence hardly impinges on ours in any meaningful way. They were always very independent, and so we can still out to dinner or see friends and not worry about them. And we have a third car that they can share if both are home, so transportation is hardly an issue, other than getting a momentary start when we see a vehicle in the driveway that we're not used to seeing there. But still, their departure enabled us to discover a few states of minor bliss that are disrupted by their presence.

High on the list is getting my socks back. When the kids were little and growing, separating a pile of clean clothes was a no brainer: the size of the stuff made it easy to sort out the three sets of male attire. But once they got to be my height, it got harder to parse the load coming out of the dryer. I would find my things in their rooms, and theirs in mine. Once they went away, however, it went back to a simple binary decision: girl stuff went to my wife, boy stuff to me. But when our now 21 and 24 year old were home over the holiday, my socks mysteriously evaporated. Now that the kids have returned to their usual places, so too have my footies.

Likewise, the food situation changes. To be fair, there is always plenty in the house at all times, so other than finding out that the leftover pizza has been scarfed down for breakfast the next day and is no longer available for lunch, it's not a deal breaker. But it's the little things that we've gotten used to. In their absence our supply has contracted to where the entire fridge is no longer taken up with gallons of milk. Leftovers stay leftovers, enough to provide an entire additional meal for one or both of us on a subsequent night. And on those nights when we don't feel like cooking, we're fine with a salad or soup or even a bowl of cereal, as opposed to someone wandering by going, “So what's for dinner?”

Boys, if you're reading this, don't take it the wrong way. We love having you home, and you are welcome any time. But understand that as we are getting older, our ability to adapt and change is more limited. As much as it feels strange to you when you come home, know it is similar for us. So just take it slow when you return. And give me back my socks.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves having his kids home. Really. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at 

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