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Clippings: Empty nest more vibrant when full

You hear a lot of parents say it during some of their weaker moments, usually after a child has created a crayon masterpiece on a wall or converted a tin can into a drum: “We can’t wait to have the house to ourselves.”
I knew one set of parents that actually kept a calendar mapping out the days until their children were due to move into college. And that final calendar slot was festooned with colorful drawings of balloons and confetti. You hear stories about parents buying cars for their kids that are laden with chamber of commerce brochures on great places to live.
I’ve seen more than one vehicle bearing a bumper sticker stating, “We’re spending our children’s inheritance.” There are urban legend accounts of desperate parents changing the locks on their doors when their young people turn 18.
I’ve seen some parents take the measuring tape to bedrooms their children had not yet vacated, in anticipation of conversions to man caves, storage or sewing rooms.
Not me.
At the risk of sounding like someone who really needs to “get out more often,” I miss the pitter-patter of tiny and not-so-tiny feet in the house.
Oh sure, I do occasionally experience flashbacks to more tumultuous days on the domestic front.
There was the time big sister accidentally burned little brother with the side of a hot skillet while serving him a meal.
There was the colorful fresco on one of the living room walls, courtesy of an aspiring Da Vinci.
Ah, and there were the rollicking chases around the first floor of the house, with an assortment of cousins in pursuit. The whooping and hollering on one day evolved into some shrill screams when one of the participants banged his head after tripping in his cowboy boots.
But there were also the birthday parties that included delightful giggling sessions, Barbie dolls, Polly Pockets and makeup shared amongst the girls who grew too quickly into women.
There was the occasional stomping of feet as a future linebacker tried his hand at basketball dunking on a Nerf hoop hitched to his bedroom door.
The front yard still echoes with joyful screams of young teens sliding down a plastic, detergent-coated plastic tarp. The yard also served as a soft landing for two novice bike riders and the scene of the crime where dad’s softball toss kicked off the heel of a daughter’s glove to give her a shiner that left her mortified but unbowed in her efforts to learn the game.
The baseball bat is now gathering some cobwebs in the garage after a nice run hitting pop flies to an ambitious Little Leaguer. The football has lost some air after having spent a lot of time alsoin a tight spiral.
Our children, Mark and Diane, are now settled in places of their own — and they like it that way. We are fortunate that they currently live close enough to visit us most weekends and rekindle some of the memories we shared when we all lived under one roof. Diane doesn’t mind sharing her old bedroom with mom’s sewing station. Mark’s not sure he likes the idea of the potential conversion of his sleeping quarters into a laundry room. But they always know they will have a place with us.
Yes, my wife and I have joined the ranks of the empty nesters. But it sure is great when the baby birds come home.

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