PARTY OF ONE (WELL...TWO) by Tami Steckler
Musings from an empty nest.
I am writing to you today as an empty nester. Yes, my children have flown the coop and left me all alone. Well, sort of alone. The kind of alone when you are not really physically alone, your partner’s there, but it’s not your kid, it’s just some guy you love and married 33 years ago. That kind of alone.
For those of you who are also empty nesters, you know the feeling. I walk into the kitchen, and it’s so quiet, Alexa asks herself a question. And then, all of a sudden, I hear a voice, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” And I look around even though I know the voice is only in my head. But I stand there answering, waxing on about tacos, until I realize I am proving exactly what my kids have been saying all along, and I go directly to the coat closet to get out the strait-jacket.
So, what’s a Type A retired mom to do? Well, I can tell you. Take up embroidery (after failing at knitting and having the woman at the craft store pity me and suggest an “easy” embroidery kit). Decide to substitute teach in the district, maybe one day a week (and end up, for 8 months, in charge of 17 seven-year-olds who are blissfully unaware they are filling my deep-seated and neurotic need to be around children). Take some longer-term consulting projects that add just a little of the familiar stress I’ve spent the last few years avoiding. And go back to school, because why not keep collecting degrees like they’re Pokémon cards?
And while I’m keeping myself busy, I still manage to find a minute to run errands. You know, exciting stuff like going to the grocery store. As I walk through the aisles, grabbing two apples, a measly quarter-pound of turkey (seriously, just three slices?), a tiny jar of almond butter, and a super-sized bag of potato chips (taking “betcha can’t eat just one” to a whole new level), I desperately search for that elusive small loaf of bread which is as mythical as a unicorn. And then, in a heartbreaking moment, the emptiness of my nest engulfs me, and I find myself sobbing in the frozen food aisle. So, I bury my face in the freezer, pretending to desperately look for no sugar, nondairy, caffeine-free, coffee “ice cream.”
When I finally get home and put away my sad groceries, it dawns on me that I can watch any movie I want without interruptions. So, I eagerly browse through 85 streaming platforms for a whole hour, only to discover that none of the 1,293 movies entices me. Seriously, not a single one. So, I surrender to the comforting embrace of rewatching Gilmore Girls from the beginning. Because deep down, it’s the only thing I really want to watch. And all I want to do is yell at Lorelai to savor every moment with Rory because, trust me, she’ll be leaving soon enough.
Back in the day, I was notorious for being a compulsive intervener, much to the annoyance of my children. I used to think, “You’ll thank me later!” And they did, to some extent. But little did I know that as they grew older, my interventions would become about as welcome as a sneeze in an elevator. Which is such a waste because I still have the bestest ideas.
So here I sit, bursting with parental energy, ready to pounce at the first sign of my temporarily homebound son moving a muscle, so I can tell him that the dryer is free, his favorite juice is chilling in the fridge, I’m heading to Trader Joe’s if he wants to join, and I’m eager to spend some quality time together whenever he’s ready. It’s been weeks. He’s still not ready.
No worries. I’ll wait patiently, ready to reclaim my parenthood at a moment’s notice. Translation: I press my ear against his door, knock gently, and whisper his name, every time I pass by. Yet somehow, he manages to ninja his way to the bathroom and return to his room while my back is turned for a mere second (I had to tell the fish I’ll feed them at 3:00). And, once again, I’m left to fend for myself in this empty-nested world.
Tami Steckler was recently diagnosed with empty nest syndrome – her doctors expect a full recovery.