Monday, September 9, 2019

Weird Empty Nestish Stuff (plus a poem)

The night before the Empty Nest, as photographed by Leonardo da Vinci 

It's official. Sophie and I have an empty nest. I drove Henry to the airport last Thursday, and he took a flight to Italy where he'll be spending the fall semester. Poor boy. Afterward I kept my shit together and taught my classes for the second day, but when I got home I had what I am now thinking, in retrospect, was a collapse. Honestly, I know I am dramatic at times and prone to hyperbole, but I tell you this, Reader. Having both boys gone flown the coop off to college off to Italy beginning new lives as young men you know the rest was obliterating. It's honestly felt, at times, like something ripped from me and that something is the whole of it. I feel slightly embarrassed writing this out because Henry and Oliver are strappingly healthy and alive and happy and hell, they profess their love for me so I have nothing absolutely to complain about but let's go back to the ripping sensation. Yeah. I imploded on Thursday night, I think, and if it weren't for the Bird Photographer (interesting and ironic and synchronous, no?) -- well -- thank you, Carl. I'll add that Sophie is with me, that we both have an empty nest. The atmosphere around these parts is mighty different, and we'll get used to it. Until the getting used to it, though, it's plain weird and takes my breath away. I ate a tomato sandwich tonight with spinach and mayo on some whole grain bread. I put on a pair of compression socks (my GOD!) and organized all the paperwork for my four classes of high school girls. I opened the dishwasher and it was EMPTY. There's toilet paper in the holder in the bathroom, and the towels are folded on the rack and dry. It's very, very quiet.

Here's a poem my friend Andrea sent me:

The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Wallace Stevens


  1. Even good things can be stressful. They'll be back, off and on. You did good. Sending hugs.

  2. Witnessing the depth of your love and the brutal ripping that comes with it. You've done good with those boys. Thank you to the Bird Photographer for holding up/holding space for the one who has been holding the world up for everyone else for so long.

  3. That photograph could well and truly have been taken by da Vinci. You are so timelessly beautiful.
    Mother Nature is not very kind to women whom she tasks with loving our children so much that when it is time to let them go, having been loved into being fully winged, our hearts can barely stand the pain. Our entire universes have been jaggedly torn, leaving us to feel so incredibly bereft.
    Not fair, not fair, not fair.
    And Sophie must feel that too. Those boys have been part of her life since she was so little. I think of Maggie calling her brothers "my boys."
    There are, of course...the dry towels. Small comfort. Sharp reminder. Both.

  4. This is a huge adjustment. It's the staging for all that is to come. Eventually, we know less and less of the twists and turns in our children's lives. This is so unimaginable at the beginning when we listen for every breath. In the end maybe they listen for our every breath, but what comes between the empty nest, the ripping is strange in it's own way. One day we'll be having dinner with middle-aged folks and they will be our children.

  5. Oh Elizabeth, I remember how this felt. It’s grief. I remember so well the feeling of being utterly bereft. You’ve expressed it so beautifully here. It does get better. A new normal asserts itself eventually, but oh it takes its own sweet time. Loving you, my friend. Your boys are flying on the wings your gave them. You did good, Mama.

  6. I feel for you. And I remember the days after we dropped our daughter at the airport from where she flew to Bangkok of all places to study for an entire year. For weeks I took her unwashed tshirt to bed with me.
    Sigh. Much good came from it eventually and you and your sons will flourish - yes, flourish!

  7. When we got home from San Francisco Move-In, "IT" hit me after a few hours of unpacking and settling in, as I felt the weight of the dark empty half of our house looming across from me. Also the fact that I didn't need to buy guacamole when i went to Gelson's the next day. xo

  8. Dear Elizabeth-This chapter ends and another begins. Your boys turn to men and become your friends and confidants. And it is delicious, I can tell you. The fire of your fierce love will continue to burn for them as they make their way in the world. You did good, honey. Two good, loving, kind, compassionate men in the world. We need them.


  9. Love the poem.
    Sometimes I wish I had an empty nest. But I know I would go through the same thing that you are experiencing.
    Thanks for your honest writing. I never read anything like it on here and I really appreciate it.

  10. I don't have a completely Empty Nest yet, but having had Adult Children and recently an Adult Grandson leave the Nest, one by one, the Weirdness of it is profound when a single personality and Essence is now absent, isn't it? Since the Young Prince moved out we now always have Milk and Cereal... we don't require constant purchasing of Art/Sculpting Supplies... and there are no longer Deep discussions and debates going on about anything and everything under the Sun. The atmosphere is different as each Loved One departs to begin their Independent Lives and our New Normal becomes how the Home now is without them. It is a transition... often a bittersweet one.

  11. I cannot imagine what this feels like, but I hope you can at least enjoy those dry, folded towels. I remember when our old boxers died -- not that this is at all comparable -- many years ago, I felt completely ripped up but at the same time so happy to not have to be walking dogs or taking them to the vet. I guess my point is, focus on the positive!



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