I cried my eyes out that morning. The morning that I realized that I had taken my first step in building my empty nest was one of the toughest mornings I had faced since becoming a mother. Yes, there have been many difficult moments in child rearing, but this one ranked up there. I was stunned to realize the tears were not for me. The tears that flowed down my cheeks were entirely unexpected. Sure, I expected to be weepy when my oldest daughter, Red, packed her car and moved to Kentucky for a job with a summer stock theater company. I knew being her Mom meant that I would miss her.
These tears though hit me in a way that threw me for a complete loop as they came from a place that I never saw coming. This was the beginning of my daughters living separate lives.
I always knew I would live a separate life from my children when they started ‘adulting.’ I knew they would move away. It never occurred to me that they would move away from each other.
I moved to South Carolina in 2014, a few months before my wedding to The Ass. The girls remained in New Jersey for a period of time and it was very difficult being away from them, but we made it work. Between text, Facetime, and Spirit Airline’s “ass plus gas” cheap airfare between Atlantic City and Myrtle Beach, it was bearable.
Red had chosen to go to school at a small South Carolina university in the county that I had moved. She made the decision to live at home with us. After the wedding she moved into our small apartment at the time. Pixie Stick remained in New Jersey and later decided to move to South Carolina as well. The interim time I thought was more about me missing Pixie Stick and probably looked at the situation a bit selfishly. Modern technology and Spirit kept things going well though.
Red successfully maneuvered through her first two years of college as a theater major. I am a super proud Mom and am so grateful to see her perform and stay up with her day to day even if she is annoyed and not sure she made the right choice living at home. When Pixie Stick moved down just before moving into our new home last May prior to her senior year in high school, I was not sure how things would go with the girls. They had grown up close, but definitely could fight like cats and dogs as sisters often do.
Boy was I pleasantly surprised. They were closer than I ever remembered them being. They planned lunch dates together if schedules allowed. Pixie Stick would run snacks and things Red forgot out to school when Red had late rehearsals or long nights working in the costume shop. Red would come to horse shows when she could and made it to her regional IEA competition after a very long couple of days and no sleep. Pixie Stick went to Red’s performances. They even had a regularly scheduled Sunday breakfast date at a great waffle place in town. I was told I was not invited.
After years of yelling and screaming and constantly hearing the melodious sounds of,”Mom, she’s bothering me!” Or, “Mom, tell her to stop copying me!” I had the daughters I had always wanted and dreamed they would be. Trust me, as they got older the insults and arguments were less and less G-Rated and much more creative. However, when they both moved under the same roof in South Carolina, it stopped. On occasion the volume would increase a bit between the two, but overall this past year has been loving and peaceful. The arguments tend to be more between the girls and myself than between the two of them. I apparently still know nothing and am the receiver of a frequent eye roll and, “You don’t get it.”
So, when Red accepted a position with The Jenny Wiley Theater we were thrilled for her. She had been having a bit of school envy with her little sister going away to school in the fall while she would still be living with her parents. This was a great opportunity for her to live on her own in a dorm like setting for pretty much the equivalent of a semester. She would be following her passion and building her resume as well as growing confidence and independence. I knew I would miss her terribly. I knew this was the year the true empty nesting would begin and I needed to get prepared in building it.
We All Have A Different Empty Nest To Build
At six a.m. in the morning on a Saturday in May, I went to hug Red as she prepared to leave on a seven hour trip to Eastern Kentucky. I remember calculating in my head a quick calendar of when she would be back. I realized in that moment that her sister was leaving for school two days after her return. A split second later I realized I was not the only one entering a new phase. My dear daughters would no longer really be living in the same house. They would see each other for vacations. They may travel on trips together occasionally. They will visit each other in their respective homes in whatever town or city they choose to live. They would forever more be saying hello and goodbye on the fly between the busy of normal life.
Bawling would not do the level of tears I had justice. I spent the day in shock. It was not expected. My husband even asked at one point if he should come home. I was short of hysteria, but just short.
What a surprise. It wasn’t just about me. Building an empty nest was about all of us. All of us would be facing changes. The girls as they begin living independent lives. Me in knowing I had done all I could to raise good adults, but missing them. The Ass who only recently came into their lives and has only had a short time to get to know these extraordinary human beings. Their dad who is a year ahead in this adjustment as he said goodbye to them so they could move with me. We all are part of building this empty nest. I just want it to always be a place of comfort and love, wherever they may be. The nest will always be home.