So it has happened…we truly have an empty nest. The last of our birds has flown away…albeit, still close enough to return and wash his laundry…or catch a new movie on Pay-per-view. Neither of these things bother me – I actually look forward to seeing any signs that Matt or Tommy have stopped by to spend time with the dogs or just hang out on the couch. Christopher is on his own, truly, in North Carolina on an Army Base, eagerly awaiting the arrival of his wife. All three of my boys have launched. For the first Christmas in 17 years, I had no boys at home on Christmas morning.
I’m not sure what I thought I would feel right now. Sadness? Joy? Dismay at not being needed? I’ve taken a little time to think of what I am feeling..and finally have a name for it. Content. I feel content. I feel incredibly grateful to have had 28 years of up close and personal motherhood with three boys that have made me laugh, cry, scream and at one point, consider running outside in a sheet to avoid being burned in a house fire. I have learned to detect a lie from two states away and have developed a sense of smell that can be turned off in a van full of eight boys leaving the gym. I have been blessed to know that when I am at my worst, my boys will forgive me just as they know that there is nothing that they could do that I wouldn’t do the same.
Our house bears the scars of massive amounts of testosterone that my estrogen couldn’t overtake. The one bedroom that housed each of the boys at some point, the room closest to the front door (and the last on the way out!), is missing a screen and has a large burn mark in the wood. The front bathroom is missing half a shower door. The walls have changed colors so many times that we probably created our own insulation. We conceded that the white tile, albeit the bane of my existence and impossible to keep clean, is impervious to damage.
Tommy came by recently and we poured through a huge box of pictures. They were neatly organized in bags to be used for my brief bout of scrapbooking. I made it through one book. (That may be a stretch. I made it through five pages…so a very slim book!) As we looked through the box, I was hit with how much fun I’ve had over these years. How much I’ve learned. How much I wouldn’t trade the worst day or in reality…even tell you what the worst day was? The day I bent the van door in half pulling out of the driveway? The impromptu house fire? The day that we had to put our huge dog Happy to sleep? Was it during one of Matt’s asthma attacks? Or maybe when I was called to the school for some reason? And if so…which time? When Christopher was hanging upside down on the bathroom door? or when Tommy was ticketed for jaywalking? Or maybe when Matt pretended to be hit by a car and gave the vice-principal a pseudo-heart-attack?
Maybe earlier…when we were homeless for a while and living with whoever would take us in? During our first year of being remarried and having poor Eric have to adjust to our very tight family unit? When was it bad? I don’t know…I don’t remember. I only remember being a part of this inside joke…this crazy existence…that was never boring and always ended in love. Maybe that explains my emotion. My contentment. My knowledge that I did my best…and on the days that I didn’t…it was still OK.
When I walk around this beat-up empty nest, I realize that it’s truly just a bunch of twigs – that is bursting at the seams in memories. I know that everything is OK. My boys are out forging their own lives. They will make their mistakes – just as I made mine. They will start their families at some point – Chris is already on his way. My prayer for them is that they have this moment, years from now, when they realize that in all the craziness that surrounded their upbringing, we were incredibly blessed. I wish them their own incredible memories in their own houses. And…I’ll pray that they are wearing pajamas to bed when their own house fire hits – in whatever form that takes!
To my boys….I love you more than words can say. Thank you for letting me always be your mother!