Monday, June 7, 2010

Empty Nest

Hey there! It has been a while, hasn't it?

I returned home on Saturday after helping my son, L, move to Toronto. We stopped in Eastern Ontario for a few days to visit family and friends. It was so good to see everyone -- or almost everyone, but I digress.

We left at 4:15 am on the 30th and arrived in Cornwall at about 6:30 pm. It was a long though surprisingly agreeable drive. I'd been afraid of driving through Montreal -- anyone who has been through there will know why. Think bumper cars on speed with construction and off-ramp vagaries thrown in. It turned out to be simpler than I'd remembered and I gained a new appreciation of drivers who leave the passing lane for people passing. Imagine!

We spent a day with my Mom and then we were off to Ottawa to meet up with friends. I, of course, remembered none of the reasons why I'd wanted to move from there in the first place as I sat in the park with a good friend, inhaling the scent of mowed grass and listening to the breeze in the leaves.

Although we moved almost eight years ago, most of the restaurants were the same. Certainly, the buildings hadn't changed. It was just how I envisioned it. And I got nostalgic.

The next morning, we set out on the final leg of our journey to Toronto arriving there mid-afternoon.

L's apartment was a bit of an oddity. A basement apartment in Little Portugal with a separate entrance that was built for gnomes. The interior floor was almost a foot lower than the exterior walk so bending was required to turn the door knob. Low ceilings, uneven floors and some missing construction (like rods in the sole closet) greeted us not too happily.

The bachelor apartment had been cleaned so the kitchen and bathroom were spotless, but the floor was a disaster, covered with fine dust from sanding the walls. Three washes later, it's still not great. The screen and filter over the stove required two-and-a-half days of scrubbing to rid them of years of grease build-up and the washer smelled of old water. Only one window had a screen and none of them had been cleaned in some time. I screamed as an arachnid resembling a dock spider scuttled past.

That first night was dismal.

Sears had delivered two mattresses instead of a mattress and box spring combo, most of the furniture needed assembly, and we couldn't unpack clothes due to the missing closet rods. And, despite paying $100 for a five-block delivery, the bed frame had not arrived. We ended up walking in the rain to fetch it.

After at least an hour on the phone with Sears, trying to get their mistake straightened out, I wanted to go to a hotel and tackle the mess in the morning. L talked me out of it. He came up with the brilliant idea to keep one mattress in its bag and to lay the other on top of it to create a temporary bed.

I was delighted to have washed the bedsheets at home so we could make the bed and have something clean and fresh to sleep on.

L was feeling anxious about his move. His eyes were larger than usual, his mouth tight. Was this going to work out all right? God, how I wanted to hug him to me and encourage him to move back home, but I didn't. I told him this was his time to try it out, to follow his dream, to be in the city for film. I hope I sounded sincere. The desire to be selfish and supportive were definitely crashing together in my brain.

The next morning we started work early and by the end of the day had a rather funky looking bachelor pad to our credit. It's amazing how furniture placement changes the look of a place.

L had a job within 24 hours of arrival. He is back to working at Cora's Restaurant after the recommendation of a former co-worker who had moved to TO ahead of him. He is happy to be able to work three days a week only to cover bills, etc, while giving him time for his writing. Gotta love the service industry, so much more lucrative than retail.

On Friday, we hit a nearby WalMart and No Frills to buy the last of the essentials (like an ironing board and coasters) and groceries.

That night we played cards something that we usually do with much hilarity but I was somber knowing in the morning I'd be leaving my baby behind. L admonished me to relish my new, independent life which made me snappier than I wanted to be. Of course, I will enjoy it. I just have to get through the grieving part first. What kind of a mom would I be if I was happy to get rid of you, I asked him. I think he got it then.

I welled up a couple of times that night and in the morning, but am proud to report that I didn't lose it, didn't make him feel bad for his decision to move.

And then, with a final hug, I was on my way to drop off the minivan and grab a cab to the Toronto Island Airport.

With the exception of some knee-weakening turbulence over Ottawa, the trip was fine and dear friend N picked my up at the airport so I wouldn't feel alone.

My daughter, H, is staying over most of this week in part to babysit me, in part because she's picked up a second job which is easier to access from my place than hers. After leaving for work this morning, she sent me a text saying that she'd forgotten how nice it is to wake up and find me there.

So, although I am missing my son and there is a lump in my throat and my eyes are  moist yet again, it seems that the empty nest mightn't be so empty after all.

They do come back, don't they?



  1. Parrish keeps telling me I'll miss when my kids aren't constantly asking for juice and band-aids - your experience is reminding me of that. Bittersweet, definitely. So glad your daughter will have some time with you!

    (captcha: renestrm - the "renest" struck me!)

  2. Colleen... A lovely, poignant reminder of how life changes, whether we want it to, or not.

    Kristina and I want to have you for dinner soon.

  3. Aerin: As a single parent who worked very long hours, I often saw my kids childhoods as an unending steam of logistical challenges. getting ready for school, packing lunches, racing home from work, homework, dinner, washing up, bedtime. This is what I regret the most: the lack of time to relax and enjoy the little moments more often than I did. It's that eulogy thing: what do you want to be remembered for. Working hard isn't it. I'm lucky my kids still want to spend time with me. I gobble up whatever I can, relishing every morsel of time with them.

  4. Richard: Thank you I'd love to have dinner with you guys anytime. And I hear I go very well with a bottle of Shiraz. :-)

  5. Well... Zina's insisting we finish our bathroom before we have anyone over, so I'll get busy. :-)

  6. Richard: Ahhh... indoor plumbing... such a good thing. :-)

  7. Some of us come back, some of us don't, but for many of us home rarely strays far from the heart.

    (Even with two of my own, I still see myself as the oldest of three kids - though my parents live ten minutes up the street so I probably don't count ;-)