Saturday, November 16, 2013

Four (more) weeks


Have I mentioned that my only two children have taken to the far ends of the earth, by that I mean Pennsylvania, as their current address?

How ironic is it that both girls are learning to fly in unfamiliar territory, far from the protective wings of their mother? How odd is it that both girls ended up (or started, depending on how I choose to look at it at the moment) in Pennsylvania when I never spoke of such a place, not even in terms of Hershey.

But I have four more weeks. That’s when my sky will begin to lighten up. And no, it has nothing to do with the winter solstice (which is a week later, by the way – yay!). It has everything to do with the kids coming home, at least temporarily.

The last time I mentioned "four weeks" in this blog, I was attempting to prepare myself for our youngest child's foray into college life oh so far away. I cried while I was writing it... I cried when I received feedback from parents going through that same process of letting go, of struggling to reaffirm their willingness to let their babies grow up and move on. It was so much easier to feel that way when we were still cutting the crusts off their bread.

The past three months have not been completely without family time. We were able to slip a few 24-hour visits in and I was sort of satisfied with that. Now I just need to get past Thanksgiving, which will be – for the first time in 25 years – minus at least one of my girls here to watch the parade in their pajamas, scoff down a big breakfast, and celebrate with us in various ways (at home, or church, or serving dinner to others). They will be sharing the holiday together (along with The Boy, of course) in Philadelphia, where they will walk down the street to a huge parade followed the next day by the unveiling of holiday window displays, light shows, the works. I admit to being a teeny bit jealous. In fact, I am already plotting – planning, that should have said planning - our visit to Philly next year at this time.

Before anyone reading this has a picture in their mind of two lonely empty nesters sitting home with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store watching NCIS reruns on cable (which, by the way, we just got back - and oh yes, that will definitely be a future blog post), we do have other places to go/things to do on Thanksgiving. We will not be sitting here waiting for our children to appear on Skype... well, not until that evening anyway.

Recently a friend asked me how the empty nest was, and my honest reply was a little laugh and a “Not bad.” No, really – it’s not bad at all. In fact, I am already aware that some adjustments will be tough when YK comes home in four weeks. For instance, S and I don’t talk quietly in the morning any more; this will have to be relearned because I am willing to bet that a certain college student whose first class this semester isn’t until 10 a.m. will not be receptive to being jolted awake by conversations that start with, “Did you feed the animals yet?” loud enough to be heard through the bathroom door.

Even my grocery shopping has changed – I haven’t bought a gallon of milk in three months, shrinking down to half gallons (and considering quarts) since it only gets used for coffee and the occasional bowl of cereal. This won’t fly when it’s more than just the two of us. We’ll need to have more milk and bread and definitely peanut butter available for the month of winter break.

I am willing to make these adjustments. More than willing – I can’t wait. Though it happens less these days, every once in a while this feeling of emotional urgency mixed with a legitimate sadness sweeps over me… as if deep down my heart is somehow trying to grasp at my children and pull them back to me. It is a fleeting but powerful ache that might be dredged up by simply seeing Facebook photos of friends whose kids who are able to bop home for the weekend, or hearing about parents heading to a college campus that’s within a few hours. I sincerely do not begrudge anyone those moments, but my own longing for the opportunity to see my girls a little more often has, I admit, impeded me from automatically “liking” some of those posts.

And yet… this countdown of four weeks allows me to prepare and anticipate, especially because in five - did you get that? - in FIVE weeks this house will once again be filled with family. Yup, the gang will be here for Christmas. Be thankful you cannot see my happy dance right now.

Now let’s get down to the reality of the days to come. Holiday stress.

Raise your hand if you've ever had to scoff down a piece of toast and a cup of coffee as you are standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room while Christmas presents are being opened, rush out the door for a huge dinner precisely at noon at the home of Parental Set #1, and run across town (or state) to Parental Set #2 in time for more unwrapping followed by a huge dinner at 3 p.m., when you haven’t even started to digest that morning’s toast. The “joyful” holiday season can turn into a competition in which someone’s feelings are bound to get hurt no matter how you try to stretch yourself, agreed?

I am sure at least some of you have faced a similar scenario during holidays or birthdays (or anything that makes you wish your clone was with family while the real you basks on an island somewhere). I vowed not to do that to our kids. They would not have us dictating what day or time they should be with us on holidays. It should be up to them and we would respect their decision whether or not to be present.

I did say that. I meant it.

At the time.

Then last Christmas happened, and OK and The Boy spent it in Bora Bora with his family (where his dad, the manager for an incredible luxury hotel that I will most likely never set foot in, was assigned at the time). He set the perfect scene at dusk on the beach, produced a shell with a diamond ring hidden inside (thank goodness it was the right shell), and asked her to marry him. It could not have been more perfect.

Naturally, this meant only one thing. I called dibs on this Christmas almost before they arrived back home last year. As it turns out, I am getting my way… wait -- wish. I meant wish. Since then I figured out a way to transport the Love Couple to Connecticut the weekend before Christmas so we can rendezvous, visit family, then all ride together back Maine where they will spend the week. Unfortunately for them, coming here for Christmas has basically forced them to use every remaining minute of their vacation time, which I really did not want them to have to do. I feel bad. Oh… no, wait – not really that bad. I get them for A Whole Week (insert maniacal laugh).

This is also the Year of Wedding Planning. I am beyond excited that OK and her intended will be making a trip to what is likely the venue for their special day. I have to say, trying to picture my first-born, my beautiful, sweet, future ballerina-doctor (she was four at the time) baby girl, as someone’s wife (even The Boy, who we happen to adore) is… overwhelming, but in a very, very good way. I also never pictured her thriving in a place like Philadelphia when she grew up in a town of 19,000, and I am happy and proud to say city life fits her perfectly.

I am also aware, while this will be YK’s first actual college winter break, it could possibly be the last break she will remain home for. It would not surprise me at all if she either spends a chunk of time visiting newfound college friends during future breaks or arranges for a study abroad as part of it. Her school labels study abroad excursions “Go Long” or “Go Short” depending on the length (obviously). I am hoping to get one more year out of the holidays before YK will just be thinking, “GO.”

Last night our church sponsored a cookie bake to support today’s church fair cookie walk. A crew of kids decorated the sugar cookies, swiftly bringing back memories of my own kids joining in, sometimes bringing friends. Icing and sprinkles coated tables, and little candy balls are probably still rolling around the floor this morning. Simple fun. Sweet memories. I am so thankful to have them, just as the moms who were calmly directing last night’s craziness will be.

Of course, there is much preparation before we are gleefully ascended upon. So far my pre-visit grocery list (shells for stuffing, pumpkin pie, bread, cream cheese, and strawberries for stuffed French toast) is worlds apart from the last three months. We will have to clear out OK’s bedroom (which has more or less become The Spare Room - and we all know what that means) and wash YK’s sheets, since her cat spent the first few days of her absence vengefully shedding every possible piece of fur on her pillow and sheets.

We also get to include The Boy in our annual tradition of heading to the beach for sunrise Christmas morning. I’m thinking it won’t be quite the same as waking up to the sandy beaches of Bora Bora, where they didn’t have to worry about parkas, hats, and mittens. That’s not the point – it’s family time. And it makes you appreciate the hot coffee and cocoa waiting back at home, which you obviously wouldn’t get the full effect of in 80+ degree temps. Besides, it’s humid in Bora Bora in December – who needs that, right?

So there you have it, the reasons for my quest to gain control of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  I plan to cherish every exhausting minute of it. And I know it will go by quicker than I can say, “What about next year?”

1 comment:

  1. Janine, that was beautiful...all the feelings most of us feel you have written so wonderfully. For me the empty nest took a number of years... The older 3 out of the house long before the younger 2 were even close to it. So for me it was a very gradual process. And by the time the youngest one was headed there, I was ready. But what I didn't realize was how much I would miss all that craziness of picking up, dropping off, cheering, baking, chit chatting at spur of moments. Now I have 3 states to visit to see them. I am thankful and blessed that this Christmas we will all be together, even if it is actually a few days before Christmas, and celebrating a new life, Isaac, born to my Courtney, and Kris, Brant's wife to be. Both are loves!! With children spread all over spreading their wings I can't help but beam with happiness and pride. Having all 5 children, plus wife's, 5 grandchildren and my sister, will be loud, crazy and a whole lot of fun. I often say I would go back in a minute to when they were young, but then, wait....no enjoy today, enjoy the now. Merry Christmas to your family!!! <3 Nadine

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