I have been an empty nester for about nine months now.
If that’s long enough to produce an entire other human being, you would think it would be long enough to produce a different lifestyle.
You would think.
Instead, I have discovered that years of raising children hard-wires you in surprising ways. I don’t miss the noise and the mess, though I do miss having someone else to blame them on. I don’t miss the lights left on and the dishwasher they could never load nor unload. I don’t miss every day being laundry day and I will never miss gobs of toothpaste in the sink.
Some adjustments have been tougher. For a few weeks, I’d jump awake when I heard the garbage truck come into the street. Putting out bins had never been my job; took even more weeks to realize I had to bring them in again.
I took for granted the built-in cat sitting service I’d enjoyed for so many years. Now, I’ll be hauling a suitcase from the basement and finding my passport, only to have three sets of eyes looking at me and wondering where their passports are. There is no such thing as spur of the moment.
I still buy family packs of chicken and large blocks of cheese. I need neither. I don’t need to leave the front light on for a kid who may, or may not, be coming home that night. I got rid of the freezer in the basement because it was empty except for four bags of freezer burned frozen vegetables that I bought because they were on sale — two years ago.
For years, we’d had a large fridge that took up most of the kitchen. There was nowhere else to put it, because in the kitchen’s original design, the fridge had been tucked into a small alcove. The space had been laughably tiny — until the kids moved out. I bought a normal fridge because all of a sudden, I didn’t have to fit two hundred bucks’ worth of groceries in it. The supersized fridge went downstairs, where Ari lamented that I got a beer fridge much too late.
There are white sheets on all the beds, and white towels in the bathrooms. This makes me feel my extravagance knows no bounds, as does the fact nobody uses my toothbrush by mistake.
My driveway is not packed with cars every night, and I don’t do the evening holler to stack them according to what time everybody is leaving in the morning. I don’t have to dig through coat pockets looking for keys or worse yet, wake up a kid who forgot to leave them on the hook.
Those same cars are no longer blasting rap when I get in them. If I left the gas tank half full, it still is now. I text all those kids and ask if they’ve got their oil changed and their winter tires on and they text back, “Yes, Mother Goose.”
Ari had warned me when he moved out I’d no longer have him to fix my computer issues, but both boys overlooked that I’ve mastered sending them pictures of problems with captions like, “Where does this wire go, again?” I swear they do rock, paper, scissors to decide who has to deal with me.
I’ve gone from chaos to quiet, from cluttered to clean. I was ridiculously happy when they all lived here and I’m quite content to have them mastering their independence. I’ve always said I’m lucky enough to not only love my sons, but to like them.
They come home now and look around and ask why I didn’t do all these changes while they lived here.
And I smile.