Monday, September 26, 2016

Reframing the Empty Nest
This time last month, I was adjusting to our empty nest. I'd been warned that the first week would be the toughest -- a warning that turned out to be true, as I kept waiting for my wayfaring child to wander back into the house and hang up her car keys.

She didn't.

And we adjusted.

Before she left, I'd heard from other parents that they couldn't go into their college child's room. Some said that even walking past the door was painful.

Since we live in a small cape cod, and her bedroom door is directly across from ours, separated by only a few feet, I was dreading this. I was dreading it mostly because I was familiar with the feeling. From time to time, as she was growing up, seeing that empty room when she was away overnight made me sad. Something -- someone -- was missing, and it just felt wrong.

But, as it turns out, I didn't need to dread it at all. The empty room feels different than I feared it would, but in a good way. Her room is, well, hers, and going into it makes me feel closer to her. Perhaps it's the clothes folded neatly on the bed (yes, she did that), waiting to be packed up and traded for summer stuff on Parents' Weekend. Or the things she left behind, some outgrown, but others just too numerous to fit into her newer, smaller, more public room.

More likely, it's that a little piece of her is somehow present in that space, and always will be. The colors of the walls, the desk under the windows, the books on the shelves all evoke the child she was and the young woman she's become. She no longer needs bedtime stories, watches Miss Frizzle, or anxiously awaits the next Magic Tree House book, but we survived all of those transitions.

And something wonderful was always on the other side.

I can't wait to see her next month and hear about her real-life adventures -- the books she's reading, the friends she's making, the dreams she's dreaming -- because I have faith that, once again, there's something wonderful waiting for her. The child reared on Jack and Annie's magic tree house and Miss Frizzle's admonition to "Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!" has become brave enough to do just that.

As for me, I'm happy to be living across the hall from her launchpad.

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