“When you guys are grown, I’m getting an apartment in the city, overlooking the lake. I’ll have white carpet and a Dalmatian to keep me company. I’ll come to your house for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
That was my we-gotta-get-this-house-clean-company-is-coming frustration fantasy, when all four of my kids were teens. That was when the five of us moved from a farmhouse in small town USA, and into a three-bedroom townhouse in the Chicago suburbs. That was when I could only see us getting smaller, as my nest emptied. Blissful calm would be mine.
The Dalmatian and white carpet may have been less a fantasy than the family getting smaller.
First came Loved-One, a never-married, younger man, willing to take on two wrestlers, a junior high Drama Diva (CeCi), CoCo my special needs daughter, just entering puberty, and a Siamese cat. Need I say more? It’s amazing what love can do.
In six years and three graduations, we melted down to three: Loved-One, CoCo and me. And the Siamese. Oh, and an abandoned Norwegian elkhound we adopted. The townhouse felt just right, not too small, not too large. Ahhh… bliss is on the way.
Wrestler #1 graduated from college and got married. Holidays grew by one lanky blond.
Wrestler #2 graduated from grad school and moved back home waiting for fall wedding and a firm offer on a job. He brought along his dog, which can only be described as a cross between a Great Dane and a horse.
CeCi moved back, with her dog-hating cat. She also brought along my unborn grandchild and all the emotions of an unplanned pregnancy heaped on top of worry, guilt and excitement.
The dog scared the cat that poked a bare claw into our water-bed. New dog marked his territory in old dog’s living room.
That was the summer of our discontent. The summer Loved-One said, “Maybe I should go live in a hotel for a while.”
He weathered a wrecked car, flea infested carpet, stolen socks (“What do you think she does with them all?”) unemployment (mine), teenage angst (everyone’s) and CoCo’s Friday the 13th battle with a Subaru (10 days in intensive care!). It was the Groom’s pre-wedding stress and the unwed mother’s blues, coupled with two more animals that did him in. He needed space. How could I blame him? I wept. Not just tears, sobs of anguish.
“I never knew you cared so much.”
“How could you not know?”
Loved-One battened down the hatches and weathered it out once more. I love that man.
Wrestler #2 had a beautiful wedding. Grandchild No 1 was a beautiful ginger-haired baby. Holidays became bigger, almost double. Our summer of discontent dissolved into the background of autumn’s color. I delighted.
Love grows. Wrestler #1 gave us our first grand-daughter, Wrestler #2 gave us another grandson. CeCi’s sense of responsibility blossomed with motherhood. She managed three part-time jobs; all allowing her to take her ginger-haired grandson along with her. She married a man who brought us our bonus grand-daughter. We needed more space.
Love keeps growing. More grandchildren squeezed my heartstrings. CoCo met and married a Special Olympiad who looked a lot like Mr. Incredible. The LoveBirds made our nest their nest.
Loved-One and I built a smallish house on a large lot. We have plenty of gathering space and a spare bedroom. The lower level felt like an apartment for the LoveBirds. We have a Harry Potter closet under the stairs just for toys for the grandkids. There’s enough room for all twelve grandchildren, and their parents, and my mom when she comes to visit. G-Dad (aka Loved-One) likes nothing better than to hunt bugs and worms with the grandkids and feed them to the frogs in our water garden.
Holidays are wonderful, but so are weekends, and evenings and early morning wake-ups, lifting the quilt and snuggling a small child under my chin, chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and cherry tomatoes, eaten like candy, fresh from the garden.
Will I ever have that apartment with the white carpet and the Dalmatian to keep me company? God, I hope not. A feathered nest is bliss.