The Ghosts of Empty Nest

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Will and Anna

A post from Beth Lyon-Suhring:

It’s not the empty nest that’s the problem in this phase of my life.  I’m pretty happy to be able to spread my junk into bedrooms formerly occupied by my offspring.  I revel in a supper of the split pea soup that neither of them liked.  I rejoice daily that I never have to spend another afternoon on the soccer field that consumed years of our lives, and I don’t miss science fair projects even a little.

No, it’s not the empty nest that’s the problem; it’s the nest repopulated with the ghosts of Christmases, Valentines Days, and Summer Afternoons Past that is the problem.  My last flesh and blood child left for college over four years ago, so we should be rattling around in a house that’s far too big for our needs.  Instead, everywhere we turn, there are wraiths to trip over.

In the rocking chair upstairs there’s a shadowy young mother nursing her infant for what must surely be the twenty-seventh time since midnight.  The mom is obviously exhausted, but she’s so madly in love with the small creature in her arms, I can’t seem to work up the nerve to ask her to leave.

Rocking Chair

There in the living room are two pajama-clad apparitions, just out of their bath, wrestling on the couch as they await the next chapter of Charlotte’s Web, or Swallows and Amazons, or The Long Winter.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple of shadows in the kitchen as my husband prepares dinner.  One is carefully chopping apples beside him, while the other one, standing on a kitchen chair pushed up to the counter, is stirring something vigorously in a big bowl.  Can’t they see that our kitchen is small enough as it is, without more arms and elbows in the way?

Will

There are small ghosts hanging over the banister, letting GI Joes and Barbies tied to strings rappel down the side of the staircase.  Childish voices at the dining room table leave little room for mature conversation.

These specters are in and out of our house all the time these days, and they always seem to be bringing more with them.  Sometimes I just stand and watch them, struck dumb by their unspeakable sweetness.  At other times, I pull myself together and get on with business.  If I ever manage to banish them all, I’ll let you know how the real empty nest works out.

Beth

Beth Lyon-Suhring lives in an old farmhouse with her husband and dozens of spectral children in Suffolk, Virginia.  She has two grown children, whom she misses just a little, and is a church educator.

16 responses »

  1. Such a sweet, poignant post. Thank you! Lately, we’ve been watching old movies of our children at Christmases, field days, birthdays, etc. so my “spectral children” seem very real at this moment. What wonderful and wistful moments these memories bring.

  2. This is so clever, I wish I’d written it. Just not yet. Our triplets will be with us for six more months and I am aware of those little apparitions I experienced when their older sister left for college six years ago. Oh my…You put my feelings and mental images into words oh so well. Oh my…

  3. we’ve been “purging” some of our basement closets and came across hundreds of photos from those pre-empty nest years. so many “ghosts.” So many fond memories of all the things we did together and how wondrous our children were–and are. we can see the germs of their adult personas in the old photos. Your post reminded me of that visit to ye olde photos. We miss them but we’ve also moved on. Had to.

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