How do the nests stay in the bare trees on a windy Autumn day? In the moment of my questioning I realize I didn’t get to see the birds one more time. Here. In front of me.
But the nest remains.
It’s here. The time of year when parents’ hearts are exposed like nests in bare trees. We pack up our college-ready birdies and swallow hard because when we gaze at them with misty eyes we see our child, in my case, a son, flying from the car to a dorm building wearing a superhero backpack, an untied shoe and first grader spit-combed hair.
In reality this fledgeling is carrying the university’s orientation notebook, a water bottle, and that last look back at us before the building door closes. What’s cool is they time their last glance right when we thought we had the all-clear for stinging tears to crest our eyelids and long-sniffed snot to finally shine our upper lips. They see us gagging the familiar empathy gag because we know they’re going to be homesick. Or, ok, actually it’s us. The parents are gonna be semester-empty-nester sick. Again.
I AM OBSESSED WITH MY OFFSPRING. THERE. I SAID IT.
I’ll never forget the first day my eldest son went to college. It goes down as one of THE toughest days of my life. I suffered so much I became desperate to enroll in classes just to be where he was, just like when he was five years old and I got a job at his preschool. There was that crazy apron-donning lady within me who needed to be the nurturing goddess giving him his snacks, saying things like, “You must share the ball, deary,” and “USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE”!
DO YOU HEAR A HELICOPTER?
Don’t freak, I didn’t enroll in his college. I settled for sending him a “biggest fan football mom says goodnight XOXOXO” text every night.
My second son stayed in the city where we live for his university experience. You bet I hovered over him as a child too. Now he’s a musician in his late 20’s and my uterus hurts if I don’t make it to one of his band gigs. And yes! I DID ENROLL IN THE LOCAL UNIVERSITY HE WAS ATTENDING! But for reasons other than to hover. I swear.
As life goes on, the older son is now in his 30s and has a little boy of his own. When it comes to my sweet, brilliant grandson, my daughter-in-law admittedly has her helicopter pilot license too. She’s currently attempting to land. Perhaps for her future daughter-in-law’s sake? That is if she lets my grandson get married.
BUT, YA KNOW WHAT?
Both of my son’s wives would agree that even though my nest held slightly more tiny twigs from Dr. Spock than John Rosemond, my boys turned out pretty awesome. These young ladies maybe-probably-rarely-sorta-have-to-sometimes pick up their husband’s socks, but at this point in our lives, as family, I think I’m forgiven. I think.
Judge away, people. I read all the books about parenting styles. I heard the lectures and the mumbled commentaries from the “better” moms at bantam league baseball games. I saw the teachers shake their heads when I showed up during second hour with a Pop Tart in one hand and, in the other hand, the homework that was left on the kitchen table.
Be comforted that there was some discipline in my home. You’d have been proud of me for taking the Monster Truck Show tickets away when my son repeatedly crawled out of a broken laundry room window. By the SIXTH time he did it, with arms folded I said, “if you do that ONE MORE TIME, we’re not going to Monster Jam,” those tickets were toast and The Gravedigger had to go on without us.
So, those propellers whop-whop-whopped loudly, blowing the minds of many other parents. I’ve gotten some grief for being the mother I’ve been, but remember that first boy with whom I wanted to go to college…but didn’t?
HERE’S A PRIZE…
He always, and I do mean always sent a “goodnight mom, I love you” response text. And my second son? The one I DID attend college with. Well, between classes when we’d pass in the courtyard at school he wasn’t embarrassed to yell…”hey, mama!”.
GASP! IS THIS STILL TABOO…?
Today, I can safely say these two smart, talented, enthusiastic, secure but insecure, lost but found, hilarious, proud but humble young men are two of my best advisors, deep, intelligent conversationalists, fellow music fanatics, and yep, friends.
AND FOR YOU FELLOW EMPTY NESTERS…here’s a message to our children.
In Front of Me
A mother says, child, I am your constant place.
I am your constant love. Even when the wind blows me around and my own life seems weathered and winter-ready. I am here, somewhere and everywhere. No twigs, grasses and strings to show perhaps,
but I am here.
Fly to your heart’s content. Aim for the warm, or at least the shelter of warm friends. How I wish you were needing my busy to-and-fro with sustenance and duty in my beak. You’ve left behind your downy feathers and I call to you
as if you’ll need them again.
In front of me are clear skies and cloudy eyes through a lens of
hope for your well-being.
I know you’ll live too many moments away.
I hear your songs on the wind this Autumn day.
©Gina Truscelli Percival
Nest with eggs photo by Geri Chapelle, Nest in tree photo by Robert Thiemann