Last year at about this time, if you had asked me about how I felt about my soon-to-be empty nest, I would have responded in a rather cavalier fashion. "Wooo Hooo! I'll finally have a peaceful, clean house for more than about 5 minutes at a time!" or "No problemo! Alan and I will run around in our underwear drinking mojitos! Aye carumba!" or "What, me sad? Not when my children are pursuing their dreams at the colleges of their choice!" Today, my answer would be far different and more, well, whiny. I have totally changed my tune.
Yesterday, as I was scraping sticker goo off of Reed's closet doors, a song kept rolling through my thoughts driving me deeper and deeper into my self-induced melancholia. I heard it in Reed's little 4 year old voice singing along with Leann Rimes. "Bluuuuuuu...u..u..u..u..u-u. Honesome lonesome phoby." The song melted into my mood and soaked my heart up like a sponge. After a month-long delay, the dog days of "Empty Nest" had set in. Alan was painting Reed's Kelly green bedroom with a soothing coat of Kelly Moore Chop Sticks. I was removing the stubborn residue of a room that served as Reed's nursery, Jonathan's room, and then, Reed's room. For 18.5 consecutive years, a child of mine claimed refuge within those walls.
The knot in my throat was coupled with a grimace on my face. Why on earth did we think that allowing the boys to put stickers announcing their favorite rock bands and sports teams on their doors was a healthy form of "art for art's sake?" What exactly were we thinking? Had we fallen into the parental pit which lulled us into some sort of guilt about stifling our sons' creativity? Some of those "self expression" stickers have left ghostly shapes of yellow that cling stubbornly to the doors like a teenager clings to his freedom and independence. They defy the will of Goo-Gone and a mother's scraping thumbnail. During the midst of my grumbling, a sweet memory came to mind. My mother's French doors.
My mother keeps a very, very clean house. Very clean. When the boys were toddlers, all of the furniture in Mimi's den was draped with old bedspreads and sheets long before our arrival for a holiday weekend. (There was no need to drape the living room furniture because even adults were hesitant to sit on Mother's pale pink couch. It was simply not done.) Once we unloaded our minivan of its snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails, the assault on Mimi's palace began. After one such visit, I called Mom to let her know that we had safely traveled the 2 hours from Waco back to our little home in Mesquite. She told me that she had gotten the den straightened and put back together. There was one thing that she couldn't bring herself to disturb. At the height of a toddler's eye view along the windows of the French doors were finger, nose, and tongue prints left behind by her precious grandsons. Soft, subtle reminders of the boys so teeming with love and life left behind in the quiet. She confessed that it sometimes took a couple of weeks before she could erase them with Windex. It made her miss "her boys."
During Jonathan's tenure in the green room, he took it upon himself to apply a transfer to the closet door. It was a quote: "A life without cause, is a life without effect." My thumbnail has reduced it to "ause, is a life without effect." As for the other telltale signs of teenage inhabitants - the scars left on the walls by the molly-bolted guitar hangers, the nail holes, the 500 thumbtack stings, the dinks in the woodwork - some of them may receive a stay of execution because I still need the "soft, subtle reminders." Give me a few more weeks of the echos of my sons. During those weeks, I may employ a CSI dude to investigate certain elements of the scene. Why does one blade of the plantation shutters spin all the way around now? What on earth could have carved all of those scratches up to about 3 feet high on the door facings? Had some child made hatch marks there to keep track of the times that he had been sent to his room for an attitude adjustment?
Until these mysteries are solved, I think that I will climb up into the attic, kneel, and bury my head chin-deep in a huge plastic tub of legos eyeball to eyeball with headless lego pirates. Excuse me, please, while I go howl at the moon. It will be the cry of the lonely mother missing her pups. It will sound a lot like Leann Rimes. The wind will lift up my cries and carry them off into the night to the land of Power Ranger heros and Playmobil forts. "Bluuuuuuu...u..u..u..u..u-u. Honesome lonesome phoby."