The Empty Nester: The Do-Over
By Allison Adams 11-25-12 / Submitted to The Greeneville Sun on 12-10-12
A decade and more ago I never rightly imagined what it would feel like to stand in the driveway and watch my baby drive away after an all too brief visit home.
On days like today I wander through the empty nest pausing occasionally to lean inside a doorframe and gaze into the distance … hoping to catch a glimpse of the past.
Eventually I reach for a place into which I can pour myself and quietly attempt to process what just happened.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that Life was so very different?
On days like this I scold myself for taking so much for granted.
Tiny hands imbedded with cracker crumbs.
Fat foot sans sock.
Floor littered with Legos.
I regret that I didn’t cherish the days of diapers, binkies, matchbox cars, mud pies, baby dolls, and dress-ups – in real time – before they rolled away into the future.
On days like this I encourage the eyes and ears of my soul to go back in time and surrender to the essence of Those Days.
My eyes slam shut as if that will help slow the shuffling snapshots of chubby cheeks, droopy drawers, flyaway hair, smiles, pouts, and perpetual motion.
I shake my head in shame when I think of all the times I silently wished for them to grow up faster.
Hurry up and learn how to feed yourself so I can get busy doing something else.
Hurry up and learn to be a little more careful so I don’t have to spend each second eyeballing your every move in order to keep curious you sliding Cheerios into the air conditioner vent, or toddling down the street on your own so you can try to capture the squirrel that skipped through our yard.
Hurry up and learn to walk so I can brag to others about your advanced development and also so I won’t have to be such a slave to my daily bucket of Pine sol and sponge mop.
Hurry up and learn to drive so I don’t have to spend hours each day on call as your chauffer.
If I had it to do over again I would obliterate the first sign of a thought that begins with I can’t wait until you get older…
I would, wouldn’t I?
I would respect the fact that time really races and I would beware that all too soon my babies would be terrible ‘tweeners and indifferent teenagers before they blossom into wonderful, vibrant, compassionate, comical, independent, young adults.
In a blink of my aging eyes.
I would be painfully aware that soon enough they would be spending less time in my care and more time under roof with a collection of teachers, or on a field with a team and a coach, or at a university miles away with a covey of friends I’ve never even met.
Soon enough, indeed.
I would try to bottle the smell of baby’s breath, and newly washed barely hair, and even the scent of tiny, sweaty, heads, and toddler toes, so I could open the bottle and get a whiff to revive my sad self on days like today.
Medicine for the Mourning Mommy.
On days like today I sit alone with my eyes closed so I can again scoop up my babe with both arms – a fuzzy head rests in the crux of my elbow and rosebud lips open widely to release a squeal of delight that was music to my ears.
Then, and now.
I am spinning around and around with my baby bundle clasped tightly in my arms!
For a split second, in slow motion.
Just once more.
I sit quietly and search intently until I eventually find my young adult self in a dimly lit nursery, sitting in a bentwood rocker on a creaking cane seat, cradling a babe on my lap.
I am nuzzling a head of down, singing – Golden Slumber Fills Your Eyes – and planting a tender kiss here and there, now and then.
Then, and now.
Smiles await you when you rise.
If I try very hard I might be able to revisit that moment in time when my baby birds were completely dependent upon me, and their doting daddy bird, for every single thing.
Oh, that was Some Life!
I close my eyes, spread my mind’s wings, and fly there … on days like today.