How to Bring Joy to an Empty Nester Mommy

Skypevintage adAnswer: Enjoy an hour-long Skype video conversation with her son.

That’s the highlight of my day. My Angel Boy and I Skyped for over an hour and it was rainbows and sunshine and glitter all rolled into one. The wonderfullness of seeing his face makes everything OK.

When my son first went to college, it was just down the road at UCSD (University of California at San Diego), about a half hour away. He lived on campus in a dorm for a few reasons: traffic on our freeway is horrible and would have been too stressful to drive every day, we wanted him to have a true “college” life experience, away from home —  for the first time — although we were close enough to be around if needed. He was seventeen when he was a freshman, and I really worried about him for all the reasons you can imagine.

8414969-empty-nest-isolated-on-white-with-space-for-textHe did just fine; I was the basket case.

Talk about empty nest syndrome; I was bereft, tearful, wandering into his room at all hours of the day and night…the silence was  hardest to bear. No doors slamming, “I’m home, mom, I’m hungry!” No one saying, “Hey, the guys are coming over to skate. Can we have snacks?” No one to need my help — not with anything.

That’s the hardest part of being an empty nester, I think.

It’s not being needed every day.

Sigh.

That was in 1998. We didn’t have the luxury of Skype — and mobile phones hadn’t yet attained their ubiquitous status. He had a laptop with an Ethernet connection and we thought that was a big deal.

We talked on a landline several times a week and he came home most weekends. We drove down to get him (and his laundry) and take him back with clean clothes and enough brownies and cookies and snacks to last the week.

In his junior year, he had the opportunity to go to Germany for his year abroad experience. He left for the University of Goettingen in September and I flew there in February and stayed for a week.

I met his friends and his professors and we walked for hours and talked and laughed non-stop the entire time. That’s what we’ve always done and that tops the list of what I miss most about him being all grown up and everything – besides the hugs and smiles and his messy room and being hungry all the time — he and I can talk for hours about anything.

It was a tradition started in Kindergarten. We’d leave the house every morning around 7:30 a.m. to walk our dog  before school began at 8:05 a.m. During that half hour he’d practice arithmetic, spelling, brain teasers, chat about his day in school, and what I would be doing with my time. With a final kiss and hug from me and a goodbye from his dog, he skipped off to meet his friends. Never looking back. Self confident and prepared for learning. That was my goal, and I think I accomplished it.

It’s full circle time for my Angel Boy — he’s taught freshman and seniors at Yale.  I couldn’t be prouder. When you’re a mom of a little one, you hope to plant the seeds for future life success; it’s a happy day when you see the fruits of your labor — a magnificent, tall, strong bountiful harvest. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him terribly! Sigh…

Our bountiful garden

Daily Prompt: Circle of Five

Daily Prompt: Circle of Five by michelle w. on December 12, 2012
A writer once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with. 

My son, because life would not be worth living if he wasn’t in it.

yale prof studying

My husband because he is my BFF and he’s even my best girlfriend.

johnny depp

Not my hubs, but kind of maritime related and it’s Johnny Depp so that’s a good enough reason for me!

Hillary Clinton, ‘cos she’s totally brill and rad and tough and would be cool to hang with.

hilary clinton

My mom,’cos there’s lots I’d like to chat with her about that I didn’t get a chance to while she was living.

nurse at helm

Obvs not my mom, but she was a nurse.

Anne Frank, a tragic heroine that shouldn’t have died after trying so desperately to live.

anne frank

Abandoning the mother ship

pumpkin, pumpkin stew

Soon to be pumpkin stew

DIL and sister wife left this morning to drive back up to SF. I still have my son until tomorrow. He flies out mid-morning to the east coast and I’m not looking forward to the thirty-five minute drive and the lunacy of the airport. At its best it’s not pleasant. Now they’re undergoing major construction delays and it’s another level of Hell.  For the moment, home is reminiscent of the old days; he’s sitting at the dining room table with a computer surrounded by piles of books, only this time he’s not writing a report or research paper, he’s grading essays.

Young Yale Professor

Photo of a Yale professor in action

I can’t believe this little sk8r boy of mine goes to work and fifteen college freshman call him Professor Angel Boy. Of course, they don’t REALLY call him Angel Boy, but I think they  should. It’s hard to wrap my brain around the concept. It’s mind boggling. Especially since he still derives the greatest pleasure by shocking me with offensive earsplitting and vulgar expulsions of intestinal gas that serves as his initial form of communication when he opens the front door (Insert loud breaking wind sounds here) “Hi, mom, I’m home!” or belching as commentary while we’re enjoying a lovely meal at the dinner table, like Thanksgiving. Apparently, my laughing is an ineffective method of dissuading that kind of behavior. Sometimes I tell him he’s disgusting but he finds that a compliment rather than a criticism. His wife thinks he’s funny too; even the captain finds him humorous, shaking his head, “That’s our boy!” almost, no, not almost–completely proud of him– so it’s hopeless. The dichotomy between his academic braininess and his juvenile antics is-uh-refreshing. It’s no wonder I treat him like he’s still in the third grade. It’s as if he never left elementary school with the stupid arm farts and the other robust sounds and smells that emanate from all of his orifices. I keep my fingers crossed that when he meets with his department heads or his publisher that he remembers all the lessons in good manners we practiced and he only acts out here as the living embodiment of the prodigal son. Like I said, fingers crossed. 

Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

Smells DELICIOUS

I’m in the kitchen baking another loaf of Whole Wheat Bread. Tonight we had Moroccan Pumpkin Stew (recipe below) with steamed brown rice and Seared Ahi ‘cos I have to make sure he gets enough protein.

It’s kind of cold, damp, and foggy; after dinner we made a fire and  played Scrabble. He won, of course–232 to 219.scrabble

An assortment of desserts; apple pie, black bean brownies, oatmeal cookiesapple pie, black bean brownies, oatmeal cookies

Beautiful flowers from my Angel Boy

Moroccan Pumpkin Stew

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and cut in large chunks
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut in large chunks
  • 6 small potatoes, well-scrubbed but not peeled, cut in half
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut in large chunks
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-1/2 cups canned tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons raisins

Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrot, potato, and pumpkin and saute for 5-10 minutes, stirring from time to time. When vegetables have softened, add the ginger and garlic. Continue to saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the turmeric, coriander, cumin and cinnamon stick. Cook for another 5-8 minutes, then add the canned tomato and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, then add the raisins. Allow to cook for 18-25 minutes until all vegetables are soft – but don’t overcook. Serve over or with brown rice.