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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.

4 fishy comments:

saffron said...

I hope you're adjusting well to your new life! It does sound exciting to have a blank canvas, and to start anew. I've always enjoyed the unpacking part of the move, and it seems the worse is over for you. Now you have your brand new house to look forward to! That will be so exciting!! Good luck, and enjoy yourself.

I personally am now sad that school is starting very soon :( YUCK I do hate the routine life!! OH well.

JLee said...

It is Jenalei. You guys are now about 5 1/2 hours from us, only problem is we never go towards Idaho and in January my son and I will be back in CT. Maybe Charis and I will have to take a trip to see you guys sometime. I can't believe how big the kids are CRAZY. They all look so grown up, but I guess it has been years since I have seen them.

veronica said...

Your Mother in law seems like a wise woman.

Kelly said...

I loved this post the first time I read it and had to come back and comment on it now. My favorite part is the commen your mother-in-law made "Everything important in this life is right there in that car." I can't remember if I had read this right before our last move back to GA or just after our move but it solidified me in the reasons why Mike and I agree that the family move everytime his job takes him out of town and not have him travel back and forth each week. Family is the most important thing to us and we want to be together every day if we can make that happen. Hence the six moves we have made in the six years we have been married. (Five of which have been back and forth between the same two places)