Last night, Alan and I sat at one end of the kitchen table opposite a few piles of folded laundry. We considered eating in the living room in front of the TV but ended up plopping our plates of microwaved leftovers down at the least crowded end of the table. Then, there were the trips back and forth: "Hey, can you grab the salt and a fork for me while you're up?" Once settled, we had a no-frills, mail-reading, leftovers kind of meal. This is what we've come to. The empty nest has brought us to a place of no-frills practical existence.
Before our nest emptied, dinner meant that there was a set table with condiments poised at the ready. At 3:00, a person could guess the evening's menu merely by walking in the door and breathing in the aromas floating from my kitchen. Boys would begin to circle the campfire around 4:00. "When do we eat?" "What's for dinner?" "Are there any onions in that?" The ebb and flow of activity in the kitchen served as the rhythm of my life as a stay-at-home mother. Nowadays, Alan calls home between 5:00 and 5:30 and says, "If you don't already have some idea about what to make for dinner, a Weight Watcher's tray dinner will be fine with me." On any given day of the year, he is perfectly happy to have a 'tray dinner' or a big bowl of Frosted Flakes for dinner. Those 5:00-5:30 phone calls make me miss the event of the meal. The family gathering around meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green beans.
At lunch today, I visited with some fellow empty nest moms. We discussed how crock pots full of homemade soup meant a week's worth of leftovers and how much food we've scraped into the disposal because we just couldn't stomach eating it for the 5th night in a row. We are all neophytes transitioning into this "new normal." Evenings alone at home with our spouses are still a novelty. We laughed when Allison said that she got all excited about going to the post office with her husband the other day. I confessed that last Friday Alan and I actually walked out to check the mail together. Leann admitted that she and her husband play gin rummy after dinner on nights when there is nothing good on TV. Now that the World Series is over, they may need to break down and learn to play bridge. We all shouted "Amen!" when someone mentioned the joy of finding a TiVo packed full of unwatched television favorites.
Our eyes grew big when we realized that we are fast approaching the age of elderly couples who run errands together. When the day comes that Alan trails behind me at Hobby Lobby while I'm in search of a little sumthin-sumthin I need to finish up a Christmas craft, I'll know that we've come full circle. As newlyweds, we were sewn together at the hip. Where he went, I went. Where I went, he went. We held hands while shopping for new tires at Sears. We playfully teased each other as we wandered past the canned goods in the grocery store. We laughed as we scraped the "Tunamato Casserole" into the kitchen trash. Living on a shoestring budget in a tiny apartment was a romantic adventure. We woke up each morning grinning like monkeys because we were...MARRIED!
The 23 year season of Raising Little Boys has passed. Jonathan, Bryce and Reed are out in the world discovering the big adventure called college. Their parents are rediscovering the big adventure of being married to each other thanks to tray dinners in front of the glowing TV and romantic strolls to the mailbox. Ahhhh, Alan. I remember Alan!