Friday, 26 September 2008
FOR EVERYONE WHO'S GOT AN EMPTY NEST THIS WEEKEND
It was dusk when she got back, it had been a long long day.
She drove the car back onto the drive, stopped, but didn't move.
She didn't want to get out of the car, almost as if she stayed there, it would all be ok and there would be no more pain.
She started to think about the last couple of days.
They'd had a row the day before, the first one they'd ever really had. There'd been lots of BIG discussions over the years, but not a full scale row like this one. They'd been able to make up thank goodness, but it had been horrible.
To think he'd been smoking for years, and she'd only just found out. But she was grateful she had, she'd been able to say he could start over, go in as a smoker or a non smoker, which ever he wanted. He could be exactly the person he wanted to be, this was his time.
It was no good she had to go in the house, turning off the engine and picking up her bag she got out of the car and walked slowly towards the front door.
Inserting her key, she opened the door,opening her mouth to call out 'Hello I'm home' she stopped mid gasp, there was no-one to hear her say those words.
Oh this was hard, the tears sprung to her eyes. She didn't know what to do with herself, so doing what all English people do the world over she put the kettle on to make a cup of tea.
It was so quiet, she turned on the radio for some company, it was still tuned into his favourite radio station, she couldn't bear that not feeling as she did. She switched it back off and finished making the tea.
She wandered into the living room, she was a very tidy person and there was no trace of him in this room, it was all elsewhere in the house. Absent mindedly she sipped her tea and thought about the day.
He's been so excited deciding what to take, and what to leave behind, and packing the car up this morning, there was hardly room for her to fit in the passenger seat and she had to carry a plant on her lap all the way there.
When they'd got to Cambridge, they'd found the place where all the other parents were unloading their cars. His car was definitely the scruffiest, but it was his!
He got the key to his room and climbed up the winding staircase to the room, it was wonderful, easily Elizabethan judging by the beams showing through the plaster. It overlooked the street opposite his College. They worked hard together unloading and going back for more for what seemed like hours, just piling the stuff in the middle of the room. It was done, he'd met someone on the corridor, it was evident that he wanted to talk to this new potential friend, and to unpack his things in his way.
She wasn't needed, for the first time in 18 years he didn't want her to be there. Knowing this, knowing that this was the start of letting him go for him to find his way as an adult she swallowed her emotions . Gave him a huge hug, and said she'd text when she got home.
Remembering this she got her phone and sent him a message, and immediately got one back saying he was fine and had started unpacking, and that he loved her.
That was enough,all day she'd held herself in, and now, only now, looking at his text did she start to cry. How was she going to cope without him, who was she going to talk to, who would have time for her the way he had.
Oh this was no good, she had to accept this and get on with it. Wiping her eyes, she got up and decided to be brave and go in his room and see what that felt like. After all the sooner she did it the easier.
It was absolutely awful, there was his unmade bed, the sheets waiting to be changed. His waste basket over flowing, his drawers in his chest of drawers open with unrequired clothes falling out, she sat on his bed and sobbed. He'd gone, her eldest son, her first born.
But being her, she couldn't just sit there, so stripping off the bed, and putting fresh linen on the bed, folding the clothes, shutting the drawers, taking the rubbish downstairs, she started to feel more in control as she tidied.
She shut the curtains, put on the lamp to make it cosy, and thought to herself someone can come here and I have a guest room. This thought helped, even though she knew it was only being used to keep her from crying some more.
A while later, her youngest son erupted back into the house. Going upstairs he called down to her, 'I'm going to sleep in my brothers room from now on, it's bigger than mine' And suddenly that was the answer. She'd move their rooms over and then that smaller room would be a way for her to deal with her big son coming and going as he would in the next three years. It would be almost an impersonal space,so she could get used to him not being there.
Three weeks later she went to visit for the first time. She'd booked herself into a hotel by the river,it was the first of many visits over the next three years.
She went to see him in his room, it was amazing he's made house in the room, posters on the walls, strictly against college policy! Blankets and cushions piled up on the chairs and bed. House plants all over the place.He was proud of how cozy he'd made it. He was able to own how much she'd influenced him in making a home wherever she was.
She'd never known that he was as much of a home maker as she was, it made her ridiculously pleased, and happy that he was able to cope with his homesickness by making a safe little nest for himself.
The pain of separation did go, she loved having him home for the holidays, but sometimes when he was back she amazed herself in looking forward to his going. They both had to work at making a future for themselves, that meant that they didn't think of him ever living at home for any length of time again. He was grown and it was time for him to live his adult life.
After all we only get to borrow our kids for a while, and she was grateful for those years they had together as he grew into the wonderful man he is today.