You think you’ll feel one way about something, but end up feeling another. My oldest son Patrick moved out recently. I expected to feel easy-going about it, ready. After all, he’s 25. It’s time. But I felt something different.
The sight of his empty room hit me harder than expected. All his furniture is gone except for this huge roadside “Detour” sign left over from high school. (I never did get the full story of how it made its way from the street to his bedroom).
Rock posters are still tacked to walls. Stray CD’s, ancient sports trophies and hand-made clay bowls from elementary school line the shelves. A room once filled with my son’s sweet, solid presence is hushed and still.
I look around and realize I’ve come full circle.
Twenty-five years ago, I sat in a hospital bed after a rough and scary delivery. I felt weak, exhausted and scared. How would I ever summon the energy to care for an infant?
A few days later, feeling better, I was switched to another, cheerier part of the maternity ward.
That sunny Saturday, my husband Randy and I were allowed to spend all day with our new son. He lay in his bassinette, wrapped in that pink and blue-striped hospital blanket, so calm and sweet.
For the first time, I was allowed to hold him as long as I wanted and even change his diaper. We fed him and cooed, marveling at all his baby perfections.
For Randy and me, it was our first, hard-won moments of parenthood. We gazed at this tiny infant, not knowing who he would be or what he would become. Ready or not, we were a family.
Twenty-five years later, we watch our oldest boy, now burly and bearded, drive down our driveway in a U-haul truck, his meager possessions in back.
I watch and can’t help think of that first Saturday we spent together in the hospital. This day is also a sunny Saturday. But unlike then, which was a beginning, today is an ending. The long, sweet time I lived with my oldest child is over.
A few minutes later, Randy and I find ourselves gazing at his empty room. I think of the greatest hits from this quarter century — Baby & Me groups, Barney the Dinosaur, soccer games, band jams, driving lessons, math tutors, graduations. How fast the weeks, months and years sped by.
And although a poignant interlude, I must confess something. The greedy, reptilian part of my brain is starting to kick in. I see how this moment represents more than my son leaving home. It also means a new chapter for me.
I turn to my husband. “What’s the equivalent of a Man Cave?”
He arches his eyebrows. “A Diva Den?”
I smile. I like it. In 36 years of marriage I’ve never had my own space. My husband would argue the whole house is mine. But that’s not the same.
Even though I’ve been happy to share our bedroom for 36 years, I’ve never had a “room of one’s own” to quote Virginia Wolfe. Unlike my husband and sons, I’ve had no place in the house I can shut the door and call mine.
This is exciting, I think, ideas starting to percolate. I desperately need a guest room, but what else? A desk for writing? A place to do yoga? Or listen to music? Or just veg? A private dance studio?
It’s a nice dilemma.
He and I start to leave when my eye catches on that “Detour” sign.
I debate whether to keep it and decide it will stay for now as a reminder. Detours make life interesting.
I remember those young parents in that hospital room so long ago. We had no idea of the amazing, gratifying, and at times hair-raising journey ahead. We knew nothing of the detours that come with raising sons.
Patrick, too, had his own share of detours. Once allergic to classrooms, he’s now going for his Masters in Psychology, a field suited to his perceptive, empathetic nature. It’s a road he (nor we) could ever have predicted.
I close the door on that for-now-empty room and realize something else. I can’t deny a feeling that somehow Randy and I graduated. One kid launched. One to go. We can take a bow.
We not only survived, but learned and grew from this era that began in a sunlit hospital room… and ended with my bearded son and a U-Haul.
Do you have an empty nest? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you!