Late this afternoon, Monday January 4th, our 23-year-old son drove off in his ancient Honda heading towards Castine, Maine with his chocolate lab and plenty of provisions to protect himself if his car gets stranded somewhere. My husband commented that it doesn’t get any easier watching the children leave. It certainly does not. Our daughter is still here on her break until Saturday, but then we’ll have to drive her to the airport and say goodbye for many months. She graduates in May, and then she’ll no longer have extended vacations to hang out at our house, unless her job prospects fall through, and the rest of the year becomes an extended break. Let’s hope not! But in these times…
If we still lived on the east coast, we’d be somewhat closer to Maine and a lot closer to North Carolina, but our jobs are here in Madison, and here we’ll stay for the foreseeable future, paying college tuition and enjoying our life in a slower-paced environment than what we endured for 13 years living outside Washington DC. There’s just no way to predict where kids will move or attend college or wander around… just like we were so many years ago. We don’t burden them by begging them to move closer, or suggesting they move back home, because in fact we like empty nesting. However, we miss seeing them more often. Somehow, Skype and texting are not adequate substitutes. I feel that, in the future, it might happen that we all live closer together again — not in the same house, but maybe in the same state. Or at least in the same state for part of the year. And maybe we could actually try to make that happen. Eventually.
Some friends of ours — a couple who we’ve known for over 30 years — have shared a house for something like 25 years with the woman’s mother. So, their daughters had a live-in grandma for the entire time they were growing up, and our friends had some reliable adult backup, which no doubt helped their professional careers. Grandma also had a part-time job outside their household — a nice setup really: 3 salaries, 3 adults and 2 kids. Quite unusual among all the people we know. But apparently it worked for them. Perhaps in the new world of the 21st century, alternative living arrangements will become more common. Maybe generations will double up to save space and other resources. I suppose the census data will tell us soon what the trends are looking like. I also wish that we could be closer to our own siblings. This is one of the difficult tradeoffs of having left the east coast where we spent much of our lives, and settled in the midwest. Jobs. It’s always jobs. And these days, if you’ve got one, you don’t leave it. So, we will spend a lot of money attending graduations, flying places, staying in hotels, renting cars and paying for our kids to join us over Christmas or for summer vacations. And we won’t be able to help them out directly if they get sick or something happens, because we’re a day’s travel away. We can’t just drive somewhere for a couple of hours and drop off some homemade chicken soup.
Today was my first day back at work after two weeks off. I’m very thankful for those two weeks, and I wish it were easier to face the first day back. But it never is.