Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Phase 2

Well, my son is in first grade, and I feel I am now officially out of that baby/preschool phase and fully into the school-age kid stage of life.  And to that I say, "hurrah!"

I've loved my kids since the day each was born.   But I must say the older they've gotten, the more I enjoy them.  I prefer conversations and subtle humor and sarcastic remarks to Barney and sippy cups and toilet training.  I'd rather be busy carpooling than taking care of every physical need of another human being.  I have kids who can take their own showers, get their own snacks and do their own laundry.  And two of them even DO do their own laundry.  Life can slow down now.  We can hover here for a while and enjoy family life.

I generally hate he start of school.  I hate the routine and I like having my kids at home.  But with the crazy summer we've had, and the way my youngest two were bickering, I actually was relieved this year to get going.  

At the moment I feel like I now have all the time in the world I could possibly desire.  Two kids leave for the bus (buses in Idaho are free, unlike some mental states) at 7:05 am.  Two more kids leave to walk to school at 8:30.  The first two kids get home at 3:10.  The second set ideally arrives at 4:pm.  (Their first solo trip they were 30 minutes late, turning the corner on to our street just as I had started the engine of the Suburban to go look for them.) That's 6 hours and 40 minutes without any children.  And there is no dropping off or picking up.  I got the entire garage cleaned out yesterday.  But we do live in a new place, and responsibilities that are sure to come have yet to find us.  I am know that the nearly 7 hours will shrink quickly over the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I think I'll head out to prune the shrubs, then come in and shower, work on my talk for Sunday, and maybe head to Subway for lunch.  That sounds perfect.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Empty Nests

There are things in life that can take on opposite meanings depending on context.  An empty house is one of those things.

One of the traits that Larry really likes about me is one I share with his mother.  I am a "nester," he will say.  In other words, I like stuff around me.  Homey stuff.  Photos.  Candles.  Paintings.  Flowers.  Curtains and drapes.  Anything that softens the edges of a house and makes it feel like a home.  Not only do I like to have this in place, I get it there quickly upon moving somewhere new.  In my mind it is part of unpacking, which is also something that I do quickly.

There are times when an empty house is a blank canvas for my nesting artistry.  Those are exciting moments.  Hope is thick in the air, waiting to be cut into slabs of celebration and tradition and be served up to our family on the plates of our existences.

When we were packing a couple of weeks ago, I wondered if our dog noticed.  If she did, she took it in stride.  Lucy is a Golden, after all, and I should have expected nothing less.  She was even there as the movers were emptying our home, box by box and finally room by room.  And still, she was unfazed.  At 10:30 pm we were ready to leave.   I took Lucy out to her dog run to go potty before we headed down the hill to my in-laws' house.  On the way back in, she noticed that her dog house was missing.  She then began to panic, running in the house and then around in circles, barking and growling as if an intruding person or object had been brought in without an introduction.  We got her settled before walking out to our car on the dark street, which she gratefully jumped into and sat down for a trip.

My experience was not unlike Lucy's.  I was so stressed to get us packed on time that I hardly acknowledged that we were moving away.  Saying goodbye to friends was difficult, but even so, we'd return home and I'd continue my preparations.  On moving day movers kept telling me to sit back and relax, but that was clearly impossible.  Once they were gone, Larry and I finally took a last look in each room--each beautiful empty room which contained somehow some piece of me still.  Some mural or fixture selection.  Baseboards.  New carpet and a new kitchen I'd designed.  

Moving through this empty house was not easy.  The air was now thick with emotion and memory.  Four years of birthdays, two baptisms, two first days of kindergarten, holidays, soccer seasons, family home evenings, dinners, illness, swimming, bike-riding.  I sobbed taking it all in.  And then I sobbed more while Larry held me.  I'd have run around in circles barking, had it seemed helpful.  But rather, I made myself say goodbye and drive away.

Much like childbirth, I'll quickly forget the pain of the empty house and will be left with good memories of all that passed in our mountain home.  It was a special place for our family.  We will always look back fondly on our time there.  Yet as we prepared to drive off from my in-laws' to Idaho the next morning, Larry's mother looked at him and pointed to our kids in the Suburban.  She said, "Everything important in this life is right there in that car."  She was right.  It may be sad to leave a place, but when you get to all leave together, little else really matters.