Monday, August 31, 2009

The Semi-Empty Nest

Now that my youngest birth child, Alana, has moved out of the house (for the second time) at age twenty, it seems a fitting time to look back at my years as a mother. Oh- I know that “mother” is something that I will be until, in fact, my children themselves die. My own parents still hold court in the castle of my consciousness at age fifty-seven – my father from heaven, my mother from Minnesota. And the elders I’ve cared for still so enshrine their parents, as long as their mind and hearts still work.

No, it’s just that now is that particular time we call “the empty nest.” In my case it’s a semi-empty nest due to my almost 8 year old stepson, Evan, who’s with us half-time. But that’s a different story.

This empty nest is cushioned a bit by the situations of my life. My revived private women’s health practice needs all of the attention of a good mother to help it grow. And my writing projects could fill 48 hours a day. It’s not like in the old days when so many women’s life career was as mother, and that was that.

Yet, be it lowly job or brilliant career, it cannot cuddle up to you and say “I love you Mommy.” And I’m a definite cuddle- hold- hands- and- hug kind of person. Alana and I still sometimes keep the French custom of “bezous” – kissing on each other’s cheeks to greet each other and to say goodbye. It was actually more of a touching of cheeks, with air kisses as sound effect. In Paris it was 3 times-- cheek one, cheek two, and again cheek one--maybe to overcome any possible big city anomie. When I get to be with my twenty-nine year old son I like nothing better than sitting next to him, holding hands or arms draped around each other’s shoulders.
I will sorely miss the feminine presence of my daughter in this masculine household. Alana is much more feminine that I. She went through a years-long phase as a young girl when she would ONLY wear dresses and skirts. I convinced her to wear long pants under them to protect from winter cold.

Alana’s an expert at make- up and now has a career as a hairstylist. She advises me kindly in these matters. It’s fun—just as I chastised her for cutting her hair as a preschooler, she has lectured me against the practice of trimming my own bangs. She’s finally accepted that I won’t blow dry and style my hair. I barely comb it—something my own mother nagged me about to no end. Of course I do press Evan to comb his bed head on the morning I get him to school. It’s my motherly duty.

By Terra Rafael

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