The browning Christmas tree awaits its final fate at the curb. It’s the kind of grey January day that signals the return to schedules, alarm clocks, routine. I like it. I find beauty in the constants. But after weeks of family sleeping everywhere and tripping in line outside our one bathroom, an aching emptiness throbs in my throat.
My son just loaded his old car and began his six-hour trek back to college. With him is his young finance, which makes the goodbye easier. He is not alone out there. Along with her mother, I grabble with loss and gain in this season of life. Not just the budding marriage to come, but the whole “empty-nest” process.
We know that it is good. The only alternative – that our children remained dependent – evokes a nauseating sense of something sick. No! We would never wish to cripple them like that. Soar! Explore! And then land home in this old nest long enough for us to infuse our experiences and unconditional love into your reservoirs again.
In our case, the nest is far from empty. My 24-year old cousin needed a fresh beginning and a safe place to land after the devastating death of her mother. So, with David’s consent, her perfumes and purses have replaced his music gear, and he has embraced her as his second sister.
Contemplating the faded tree out there by the curb, I realize I never have to follow suit. As my firstborn, my only son, is lavishing his affection on his blossoming bride-to-be, I haven’t lost him. I have gained her. Seven moths ago, exhausted from the endless mill of the college application process, I was the tired mother of two. Now four beautiful, soulful people plus a handful of their friends call me variations of mommy. I am rich.
When my daughter and cousin feel the pull to spread their wings, I will cry and celebrate life with them, even as my red eyes scan the horizon for whomever else might need to land for awhile. Not because we have too much space; by western standard our home is a so-called “starter house.” But my man and I, once certain we would never be parents, have had our souls miraculously expanded. The more we love, the more we love. It’s downright addicting.
“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”