Monday, April 18, 2011

Thoughts I had in My Quiet Time

When I emailed back and forth to a young co-worker/friend on Friday, trying to wrap up some business she coordinates with me, she sent me a sincerely worded message to enjoy my peace and quiet.  The words nearly dripped with envy.  I knew how she felt.  I remember feeling exactly the same way at one point.  Her daughter is just over six months and she works full time, trying to maintain nursing, which is a logistical nightmare at work (I have some funny stories about my efforts in that arena, but they weren't funny at the time).  I've not met her husband, but I gather he's like a lot of young fathers - young, and therefore a little bit like the proverbial deer in the headlights realizing the sudden shift their lives have taken.  Her in-laws moved there recently to help care for the baby when she's working, but that adds its own layer of stress, I am sure.  You're struggling to establish your own family dynamic, and I can just imagine the in-laws being such a large presence in your life disrupts that a bit - even if they don't intend for it to.  And, you're juggling all those balls on very little sleep.  Mother's Day is the most precious day on the calendar because your husband feels obligated to give you some down time - even though at some point, you'll be changing diapers, cleaning spit up, dealing with your own mother and generally doing all the normal things you do because Life is a bitch and she could care less what day it is.  Maybe, just maybe, you'll get a chance to take a bath and relax for half an hour, or you won't have to cook that night.  I think my love for taking a bath re-emerged during those days when my daughters were babies.  I could escape all that chaos just for a while and let the tension soak away.

You can't help thinking back to those long ago days - like, two years ago maybe - when your stomach was flat and your breasts perky and you were dancing the night away or attending some concert, or just hanging out with friends over coffee with no worries or obligations.  And you tend to long for those days, even as you glance down at your daughter's lovely face and love her more than anything, and know that you wouldn't trade that for all the world.  Then, a vague sense of guilt sets in just to complicate the whole adventure a little more.  I remember all of that.

So, I didn't lecture her, as some in my position might have, and tell her to savor the moments she has now because they'll be gone in a blink of an eye.  Or, worse still, tell her to not take them for granted in case something happens.  I know full well that she will look back on this time fondly in about 15 years, when she's waiting up for the little vixen, who has broken curfew and is likely out with some boy my friend doesn't approve of - because, simply, he's a boy and they seemingly live for only a few things at that age, none of which make you happy when it is involving your daughter.  My friend will be tired, worried, mad and resentful all at the same time, and she'll think back to the time when her daughter was such a bundle of joy, easy to control, in complete love with her mother and dependent upon her for everything.  I know that these days will seem like a piece of cake in comparison.  I can say that to her, but it's her future and too hazy to grasp in the middle of her right-now exhaustion, so I don't.

I also don't have to heart to let her in on the reality of the empty nest:  it's not all that empty.  Between work, bills, house, young adult child struggling to be a young adult and probably eventually grandchildren, those fantasies she has now about the time when she and her husband can go off sailing around the world or even curling up with a good book or her favorite soaps isn't going to come around when she expects it to.  If it ever even does.

But, I really don't want to tell her what I've seen of women even further along the road than me.   Women like my mother, or my mother-in-law, or some of the sweet older ladies on my block.  That there will come a time in her life when the quiet envelopes her like a blanket, and she will wonder what happened with her life.  Where did it all go?  She will look at herself in the mirror and see a virtual stranger there.  Or she'll see her grandmother.  She will have some spare time finally, but she may or may not have the energy to use it.  Just sitting in a comfortable chair watching pay-for-view (or whatever it will be then) is a pretty good night's entertainment.  She'll look at the photos of the children and grandchildren that grace the stairwell as she goes up to bed at night, feeling the weight of the walk in her knees or in her back and she'll wonder what they are doing and why they don't call more.  She'll worry about whether her retirement will see her through to her end, and how to put a little away for the people in those pictures on the wall.  She may be scared about that, hopefully she won't be.  She will think back to the days when her first born was young and so was she, and how carefree everything will seem to her then, and how the cacophony of the days that seems so jarring now was actually like a symphony, and she was like a ballerina; graceful, vibrant and full of life and love for that little bundle of exhausting joy.

I don't tell her any of that.  I know she will find it all out.  She is on a journey that many of us have traveled before, and many will follow, but stopping to ask for directions is not really something we do well.  We just can't see who else is on the road with us well enough for that.  So, I tell her to kiss her daughter and to have a good weekend, and I hope that she gets a little rest.  And then I ponder all of that in my quiet little empty nest.

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