Monday, August 08, 2005

Empty Nest Time

The empty nest. (Click picture to view larger image) Posted by Picasa
"A child enters your home and makes so much noise for twenty years that you can hardly stand it: then departs leaving the house so silent that you think you will go mad" ~ John Andrew Holmes
Remember those days when your little one squealed and cried and pointed and you were so frustrated because they could not verbalize their needs. Then they learned to talk and you prayed that they would not blurt out embarrassing statements in public and a lot of your time was spent trying to make them sit still and whisper, or be silent. Sometimes you thought "If I hear the word Mama yelled out one more time today, I will forever and completely loose my mind." Then they graduate from high school and go out into the unknown world of college. For the first time the house is silent, their room stays clean and neat for more than five minutes and you suddenly long to hear "Mama, I'm home!" or "Mama, have you seen my blue and white Old Navy shirt?" or "Mama, I can't find it!".

Nyssa spent her last two years of high school at Mississippi School for Math & Science on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. She had to live on campus in the dorms. True, the university was in our town and unlike kids from the coast she could come home every weekend. She cried the first day, then two hours after I left campus she called for me to bring board games and so I was back again. After classes began the calls became fewer; the second semester she came home only for a couple hours or to spend the weekend once a month, or just to do laundry. It was a good buffer for two years. Like the little birds standing on the edge of the nest, fluttering their wings, sticking out their chests and chirping to the wind, then pulling back safe with their nest mates when mama brings supper, so she learned responsibility. She learned to get up on her own and get to class on time, even if she did wear pajamas to the 8 o'clock class at times. She learned how to budget her time in study, study with distractions around, share with roommates and basically live where she was not the center of the universe. Still she could come back to the nest on demand.

Then we moved and she had to settle on a college she was not thrilled with for the first year. Sewanee was a twelve hour drive from Virginia Beach. She could no longer come back to the nest for comfort at will, just at Christmas. She survived only because she had those two years of "buffered" time to learn how to deal with life, loss, and not so considerate people. Last year was even harder for me. I had never been that far from her for such a prolonged time. She made it. I made it.

Now, she is excited for school to start again. She will be at William and Mary, her dream school and can't wait to get involved in campus life and her classes. I still dread the 'move-in' day with thoughts of lugging clothes, bedding, rugs and such up two flights of stairs with no air conditioning, but there won't be that twelve hour drive back to Virginia Beach. And while she is closer to the nest, I don't expect her home every weekend and I don't expect to drive up there more than once a month. (I would really love to see Patrick Stewart perform when he's on campus.)

In fact, I am ready for her to go. Ready for her room to be neat again. Ready to get on with the prospect of finding useful work again. Ready to revel in the silence of her absence. Ready, only because I know it is temporary; because I could get there quickly if she needed me; because she can come home to do laundry even if she doesn't; and because on rare occasions (if I can keep them from doing it more often) her grandparents can cook her a batch of fried chicken, hot homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, green peas, chocolate chip cookies and blueberry pie and take them to her.

This year my nest will not feel quite so empty even if it is.

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