The house was eerily quiet this morning. After sitting on the porch for my usual early morning cup of coffee, I came back in and noticed the utter silence of the house—an empty, hollow feeling, like all the molecules of energy had been sucked out. Yesterday, my hubby Bill and I became empty nesters after we dropped our youngest off at college. I didn’t know our house could sound so quiet.
Typically, I love silence. In our family, I’m known as the noise Nazi, especially when it comes to the volume on the tv. If I happen to be watching something and my husband walks in the room to join me, he’ll wait a few minutes before he politely asks, “Can you actually hear what they’re saying?” My kids also call me Storm Cloud from the endless times I have marched downstairs at one or two in the morning in one of my nightgowns (for some reason they think the nightgown makes me look scarier) and told them “Turn that tv down!!!”
But today the quiet of the early morning that I normally treasure seemed quieter than it’s ever been. And for the first time, since raising three kids, I wished for a little noise, or at least the solace of knowing that one of them was slumbering away in their room. But, alas, all their rooms were empty.
I always feel a little nostalgic this time of year. I’ve always loved the rhythm of the school year, especially the promise of a new beginning that I feel each fall. Even though I’m no longer a student myself, I still feel it.
And I felt that beginning-of-the-school-year feeling yesterday when we dropped Julia off at Kalamazoo College, although it was tinged with just a little more sadness (and a few tears) thinking that she was our last and our lives would never quite be the same. And we’re pretty sure that her life will never be the same. Yesterday, after we said our weepy goodbyes, a few hours later, she boarded a bus for an all-night trip to the Adirondacks with 70 other brave Kalamazoo students.
As of 7AM this morning, she is on an 18 day wilderness backpacking adventure. It’s a super cool opportunity, right out of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, that the school offers to those who dare to carry all of their belongings on their back, cover 8 miles a day, NOT SHOWER (deal breaker for me, right there), dig your own latrines (OK, double deal breaker), portage canoes, whitewater raft, and have absolutely no electronics for 18 days. We won’t have any contact with her whatsoever until she gets back to Kalamazoo on Sept. 4.
So while we’re imagining what her days are like, we’ll start our own adventure of being empty-nesters. Last night, right after getting home from dropping Julia, we felt a surge of empty-nester energy. I cleaned out the refrigerator, emptied the snack drawer, and did laundry while Bill cleaned out the garage. I was excited thinking about how nice my fridge will look with only the two of us home now, how I won’t have to go to the grocery store so often, how many calories I’ll save not eating the kids’ snacks, and how much less laundry I’ll have.
By 10 PM, we plopped down to watch the news, thought better of that, and switched the channel to Seinfeld. I looked over at Bill. We both got a little weepy again. Then it was time to turn in.
It’s true our lives and the lives of our children will never be the same. But change is good. Transitions are exciting. And just like the first day of school each fall, there’s always the promise of starting something new.