I come home each night, and things are as they were when I left. If there are shoes in the front hall, they are mine. I can always find the TV remote. The car is likely to need gas (that was Alex’s favorite job) and the dog is in need of love and a walk (Evan was the one who best kept track.) There are no clothes on the floor of their bedrooms, no lights blazing during daylight in the hall, no empty snack boxes left behind in the cabinets after their contents have been eaten.
Everything is in the same place, but nothing is exactly where it should be.
Sending your first child off to college is seen as a start — for them, for you. Sending the last is seen as a finish line. Beginnings. Endings. Words that should contradict each other, and yet I am feeling both at the same time. “Empty nester!” friends exclaim. “How is it?”
Just as I thought it would be. And completely the opposite.
I had expected to have more free time, and I do. The kitchen calendar looks spare without school concerts and SAT test dates and tennis practice. Family dinner is no longer a requirement, but rather a possibility — something my husband and I rustle up if both of us are hungry, not a mandatory buffer between my boys and delinquency. There is a lot less laundry.
But time is a chameleon, and most days I lose track of it against the backdrop of too much to do. When the boys were infants I would wonder how on earth I used to spend all the hours before they were born. Now that I have those hours back, I marvel at how I ever crammed their needs and mine into any single day. READ MORE