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Food For Thought

Emptying the nest

Since my children grew up and my life no longer has been filled with sports gear, Levis that needed patching, and a mysteriously and perennially empty cookie jar, my fondest wish and overriding ambition has been to simplify my life.
At first, the idea seemed so uncomplicated. All I had to do was get rid of all the superfluous stuff; the outgrown mittens, swim suits and ice skates that just might fit a friend or relative in a pinch; the abandoned camera, exercise equipment, and bow and arrows that might someday enjoy a revival of someone’s interest; those once-treasured certificates of achievements at track meets, band contests and spelling bees; the piles of photos of somebody’s classmates; souvenir postcards sent from somewhere by someone whose face we no longer remember; the dried up prom corsage and the interesting rock picked up on some long ago vacation. A large collection of children’s books and stuffed toy animals. If those things were important to my children, they’d have long ago rescued them from my custody– wouldn’t they?
I started by making use of the empty rooms. The recreation room with its pool table, stereo, piano and TV became my studio. What a luxury to have a place where I could leave my creative messes in progress. All my married life, I had been obliged to stash my art supplies and equipment in the backs of closets, under the bed and behind the drapes, getting them out of the way until the next time I had a chance to work on them. I even managed to remodel a closet to accommodate stretched canvases and large sheets of watercolor paper. My art books filled an empty closet shelf, and an old dresser housed my tools and protected them from being borrowed by the males in the family who saw no reason for me to need saws, hammers, sanders, chisels and other supposedly masculine possessions.
An empty bedroom became a guest room, with touches of comfort such as unclaimed bathrobes, bedside books, a little sewing kit just in case, and a portable baby crib folded away in the spacious closet. Another bedroom became a sewing room with storage for patterns and fabrics, drawers filled with threads, yarn, salvaged buttons and zippers, the ironing board and tiny travel iron set up and ready to press a seam even though I no longer ironed any garments.
When I got my first computer, another bedroom was turned into a second study where I could keep files, my reference books, writing projects and office supplies that were too much for our original library which also served as my husband’s office when he chose to work at home. The fourth and smallest empty bedroom gradually became a store room and soon filled up with bulky seasonal necessities such as canning equipment, Christmas decorations, two ice cream freezers, beach toys, furniture in need of repair, and things that we just might need someday. And, I must admit, a good deal of stuff that still belonged to my carefree offspring who depended on me for warehousing their childhood treasures.
I hadn’t actually gotten rid of anything. I had just redistributed it, sorted it into specific areas where it was most likely to be used. Still, this reassignment offered a certain kind of serenity. If not actual simplification, it was definitely an improvement in organization. Fate, however, had different plans.
There seems to be something that hates an empty space. Something that, like water, or a high pressure system, rushes in to fill up anything faintly resembling a void. This can come from any direction and at any time– usually when most unexpected and unlikely. A son, married with one daughter, decided to build a new house for his little family. They had sold their former home almost immediately after putting it on the market. Could the three of them move into one floor of our house for the few months it took to complete their new home? Why not? There were two former bedrooms, a bathroom, my large studio, and room for a kitchenette. One of the bedrooms was already furnished as my guestroom. All my art equipment and things from the sewing room were stuffed into the room I already thought of as a store room, with some overflowing into the furnace room and the garage, and a few finally finding the way to the landfill and Goodwill. Nothing, of course, that anybody had ever cared about enough to take it with them when they first left home.
I did enjoy having the three of them here for those months. And their dog. And, soon, the kitten my granddaughter wanted. I would, I promised myself, put everything right back where it had been the moment they moved into their new house. Sure.