THE RETURN OF THE EMPTY NEST
Tomorrow, my daughter Katie returns to Boston University to start her senior year. The fact that she’s a senior in college is almost too much for me to believe. Not that I ever had any doubt that she’d succeed in college – she’s the kind of person who sets her mind on a goal and makes it happen. And the amount of maturing and growing she’s done in the past 3 years has been right on course with what I hoped for her – she is really becoming a fully formed adult, which makes me happy and proud, but also, today, very nostalgic.
My brother has seven year old twins, and he said something to me the other day about how hard it is for him to imagine them at Katie’s and Adam’s ages – 21 and 19. I told him its almost as hard for me to believe that my kids were ever as young as his – that’s what time does to us. I remember the sweetness of summer with them at that time of their lives – the days of going to camp, then coming home and jumping in the pool, the wide open feeling of July and August, when everything moved more slowly and I could just be with them, watch them, no lessons or school or homework, no baseball or softball practice – just the kids, here, with me. This summer I had a chance to do that again, in a way. Adam came home from Tucson and worked, but he was here most evenings for dinner, and we would sit around and talk, watch some tv, just be together, which was such a nice feeling – no worries about college for a brief time, just family and friends and grilled steaks. Then for a few days they were both home – and that was really something. They bickered like they were kids, we went out for a lovely dinner one night – but it was brief, and bittersweet, since they would both be leaving again soon.
Tomorrow, when Katie gets on the plane to go to Boston, we will once again be empty-nesters, starting the process of adjusting to the quiet of just two of us once more. While I was grocery shopping yesterday I felt a longing for those summer days when they were little, when I was buying juice boxes and gummy fruits and grapes and pasta salad, knowing they’d come home hungry and thirsty. I miss those days when they were still young enough to be thrilled with little things like a stop at Blockbuster for a new movie to watch, or a visit from their grandmother on a warm Saturday. Now it seems to take so much to get them really excited, but who can blame them? Their worlds have grown so much since those summer days, and that’s the way it should be. But still, sitting together and watching “Jeopardy” can make all of us feel, for a little while, like we’re still that family – which we will always be, whenever we can.