Early revelations of an empty nester

First full day today with an entirely empty upstairs. Alison was moved out and situated back in at her new rental within hours yesterday. Rental contracts were signed, everything fit and found its place and the house cat took up permanent position on her bed. She is ready to take her official place with the PLU class of 2013 on Thursday.

I realized this morning that it will take a while to accept that the upstairs is remaining empty. She has always come back to refill the space, rather gone 2 days or 2 weeks, it has been her space for so long, now I simply have an unused and really bedraggled 3rd and 4th bedroom with attached bath, and some bathtub caulk that has seen much better days. That stuff has to be priority number 1.

There is only so much a few cosmetic touch ups can cure after 18+ years and three various children growing up in a small space doing who knows what in those rooms. The voices in my head are strongly saying, “Wait, just wait…she like the others WILL return at some point…they always do”, and I don’t doubt that. Her current living arrangements may change, and as her two siblings have found, simply having that college diploma brings no guarantee of immediate grad school acceptance or lucrative job offers.

So do I make the list of “to-do” projects and file it away, waiting for the ultimate move out: the day that the bed and desk and keepsake boxes and ALL THOSE BOOKS fill a truck and leave my driveway? Should I simply close my eyes and avoid the windowsills that need so much sanding and refinishing, the walls and ceilings that need some really good paint and those carpets that should have been replaced about 2 kids ago?

I don’t think my arthritis is going to allow me to participate in too many of those DIY activities although I want to. In a funny way, working upstairs allows me to keep a connection to bygone days–the times when one bedroom was olive-green, the other red and very early on pink with teddy bear stencils.  Times when an enormous loft bed separated Egypt from a really impressive stuffed primate collection. Times when an upstairs landing served as extra storage for books, music, and three different people’s crap.

Maybe the sound of sand paper on wood will bring back other sounds long forgotten from that area of the house. Wafting clarinet and oboe, boisterous saxophone, laughter and arguing and slamming doors and that oh so familiar thump, thump, thump of feet on the stairs themselves. Even creaks and groans of floor boards and computer chairs and bed springs. Sitting in our kitchen/family room we always knew who was moving where and around what with all those sounds coming to us directly overhead. It’s been quieter in the last few years with only 1 occupant.

Taking away the last few unpatched holes, masking the final few extraneous paint splatters that were never quite covered by subsequent new layers, ripping out and replacing that awful original gray carpet with the lives of 3 individuals clearly visible upon it means signaling the finale of 18 years of growth, 18 years in the lives of my three children.

I’m not ready for that yet so the rooms will remain as is for now, although I will replace that tub caulk–gross beyond words and probably some sort of health hazard. The paint can wait, the neon stripes can stay on the ceiling for a while, the stained, ripped and useless carpet can stand ready for the possibility of a future stain or two from a returning archaeology student. I’ll keep it as it for now, just in case…

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One week and counting

Right around this time next weekend, the clean-up and clean-out begins, packing commences and Alison moves out and on to bigger and better things. She will officially be moving into her “residence” for the completion of her first college degree–actually I guess for her second college degree as she already has an AA.

So now all of the “mom” reflections must begin.

“It was only yesterday that she…”

“The last one to leave the nest…”

“Her opportunity to explore the world… and life…”

To many cliché’s and she is not a cliché’ person so enough of that. We are all pretty sure of what the future holds for her, especially after getting a taste of her future lifestyle just a few weeks ago in Montana. I know she is sure of what her future holds…although I do try to remind her and nudge her into embracing how varied the possibilities are while among her college peers but she isn’t buying my ideas and being Alison, I wouldn’t expect her to.

If she does discover new and profound aspects of life that differ from her world view, good for her and I will try not to say, “I told you so”, although no promises Al!

She is ready, more than ready to take on life.

I however am feeling those “this is my last kid at home and now what do I do” issues. I will have an entire upstairs open, rooms not lived in, still collecting dust balls but un-disturbed by the footfalls of my youngest child. Who will I call up those stairs to each evening when dinner is ready? Who will I shake my head at over the living conditions not meeting my standards for cleanliness? Even more important: where will the cat escape to for loving attention when I am too busy at my studies? I fear many long mournful days and nights of lonely meowing outside an empty bedroom, trying in vain to seek out a favored companion.

For that matter, who will I have to share intellectual (?) discussions with over world issues–ok, that might be an exaggeration, but we do occasionally have some interesting conversations and I will miss those. Who will ride along with me as I purchase groceries and toss an occasional extra item or two in the cart? Who will get frustrated but go along with me, resigned to the occasional “lets toss out old clothes” projects?

Who will say, “I don’t care, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, and quite”? Who will frustrate me with indecisiveness? Who will go into nature with me and put up with my issues of bridges, cliffs, steep drop-offs, and general high places? Who will laugh at me when I refuse those places yet accept that this is her mom?

Who will radiate modest levels of excitement when arriving home with a new stack of vinyl while methodically peeling off the ever offensive labels and stickers that mar the pristine quality of an extraordinary used record find?  

How will it be each morning when I pull out of my garage for work and I can take up the entire driveway, not having to navigate around the white Jeep, Paul and John quizzically watching me drive away? More importantly, how will it be each evening driving back in, knowing that the white Jeep with those Beatles stickers is now housed somewhere else?

How will it be in just 1 week when the person who entered this home still within me, still unborn, 18 and 1/2 years ago leaves to begin her adult life?

For Alison it will be fantastic, an adventure of epic proportions–ok, again maybe an exaggeration, but non-the-less an adventure into adulthood.

For me, I’ll let you know when I can get past the lump in my throat and the wetness leaking from my eyes.