I thought I wanted to be an empty nester. Then I looked in the rear view window.
For years, Bess has been saying she dreads the day when the last of our four children leaves home, and I’ve been saying that I can’t wait.
Last weekend, we took two of our children back to the University of Georgia, where our oldest son is now a sophomore and our daughter a senior.
Actually, our daughter is starting the first, last and only semester of her senior year. Yes, she gets a gold star. And yes, it will be a miracle if any of her brothers duplicates this feat.
Her two high-school-aged brothers came along for the ride, ostensibly to provide free labor but mostly to offer commentary on college life.
Our sophomore son was moving into a house a chip-shot field goal away from the Waffle House at Five Points.
It’s been home to a steady stream of sub-leasing male students for the past decade or so, which from appearances is also the last time it was subject to any kind of inspection, which means it’s also the last time it was cleaned.
After a brief reconnaissance, the two younger brothers reported the presence of a man cave in the basement, which was funny because every room in the house, including the kitchen, was a man cave. When their mother asked the boys to elaborate, they shook their heads and recommended she stay on the main floor of the house.
Only one of our son’s five roommates was in the house when we arrived, and he quickly excused himself to take an urgent phone call down in the man cave. Seconds later, we could hear him playing Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” on his electric guitar.
This was a good thing, one of my younger sons said, because he was wearing clothes that were cool only if he could actually play guitar, which he could. I’m not sure what this meant.
Anyway, when we’d moved our son’s stuff from our mini-van into his new room, we all headed to the grocery store, where it became apparent he’s never set foot inside a grocery store before and is ill prepared to do more than open a can of Chef Boyardee.
Nevertheless, his mother purchased him a Crock Pot, things like cooking oil and spices, and a wide variety of cleaning products and scrub brushes.
Back in the mini-van, I looked in the rear view mirror.
That’s when I saw our four children – the oldest and next-to-youngest sitting in the captain’s chairs and the youngest and next-to-oldest sitting on the back bench seat – and I realized this could be one of the last times we’re all together in our mini-van like this.
And my mind did a speed-rewind of those same children, all the way back to when they were perched on booster seats and clutching blankets.
Before I backed out of the parking space, I took out my phone and snapped a picture.
Later, I looked at it and realized I’ve changed my mind, at least for the moment.
I don’t want to be an empty nester.
I want to go home and grill a bunch of hamburgers and get challenged to a game of H-O-R-S-E and listen to somebody playing guitar and somebody else playing oboe and then see who can find the goofiest video on YouTube. I’m going to miss all the noise and even the drama.
I’m going to miss sitting out on the screen porch at night, telling stories.
These things won’t end for us, but the steady flow of it will.
I’m confident I can adjust, but pardon me if I feel sad for a moment.