Moll and I are empty nesting. It's just a trial, practice really. In fact, we have two more years to go before it's just us, two more years of cruelly early mornings, late night reviews of essays and lab reports, telephones ringing non-stop, hysteria when the family printer won't work or when the Internet crashes, worrying about late weekend nights, driving them to and from summer jobs, JCrew catalogues, arguments about haircuts and skirt length, music that I hate blasting every morning and evening, the pans hanging in the kitchen clanging to the thumping of the bass, and on and on. But, you know the story. Anyhow, the boys are traveling together for two weeks, and the girl is away on a school trip, staying with a host family.
We began to fret about 24 hours after she left. We expected a phone call. You know: How was the flight? Tell us about your hosts? Mind your manners. Don't lose your money or your passport. Have you liked the food? Did they give you wine? Please e-mail often.
We were just beginning to search for the school paper with the chaperone's overseas phone number, when she called. Everything was fine. The flight was tiresome, but the hosts were lovely, their house nice, and the food great. We forgot all the instructions we had planned to pronounce, and breathed happy sighs of relief. Please e-mail often.
We haven't heard from her since.
On the other hand, the boys were a little more than three days gone before we had an e-mail. The word Interpol had begun to creep into our conversations. We have no easy way to reach them, don't even know where they might go. Their itinerary is serendipitous. They don't know where they're going, so how could we? We hoped they would have adventures, not life threatening ones, but interesting, educational ones, the sort that extend horizons. Their e-mail reveals that they've been repeatedly lost, even driving by mistake through an open-air pedestrian marketplace scattering frightened natives hither and thither. Now, they're skiing. Yes, skiing. How can they be skiing? Skiing is worrisome because the older brother has been known to suggest that the younger try such stunts as sticking his tongue out and touching it to the frozen frame of the chairlift. And the younger has given it a try. Our e-mail replies are full of cautionary suggestions, but who knows if they read them.
Of course, for Moll and me, the nest is not really empty. There are the dogs, who have instinctively recognized a change in the music of our household. They've stepped up to the challenge. That seems to mean filling the empty hours with requests for treats and walks. They figure that if we miss the kids, perhaps we'll shift our affection for the absent children to the ever-present dog members of the family. Love the ones you're with, that's their view.
There's a lot written about empty nesters like us, and all of it is encouraging in a hollow-sounding sort of way. For instance, I found this on a web site with the rather sepulchral name "troubledwith.com": "When children grow up and move out, parents face an extreme sense of loss and change in identity. Being pro-active about the transition can move you toward acceptance of this new season of life. It's a great time to rediscover your spouse. Exciting possibilities accompany the second half of life."
Because Moll leaves earlier than I during this empty nest period, she's rediscovered the fact that I can make the bed. And we've rediscovered the fun of having dinner in bed, or not having dinner at all. So far, this is as far as we've gotten in adjusting to our temporary left-behind status. Going further at this time looks like a lot of work, so we're looking forward to the kids' return.
Many of you have enjoyed Joe Keenan's periodic accounts of his experiences as sea cook aboard the circumnavigating barque Picton Castle. I've posted Joe's latest installment in the Seafarers Log on mvtimes.com's Readers Forum. Lots of Vineyarders, their friends and family are sailing voyagers, and we hope the Seafarers Log will become a place for all of them to stop from time to time, to say hello, to tell us their stories, to pick up or deposit some local knowledge of distant anchorages or navigational challenges, or even to get some advice on an equipment issue. Stop by.