“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Sam. 1:27
They were just here, and now they’re gone. My house and heart were full for three weeks. Two daughters, one son-in-law, six grandkids, an exchange student, and a Jack Russell Terrier. I cooked real meals, played games, and felt like a mother again. And then it was over.
Don’t get me wrong. My life is full. Teaching school is challenging and satisfying. I don’t sit at home pining for the five kids who have left my nest to build their own. It is gratifying to see them raising children who are as bright and fun and energetic as they were. I am certainly blessed in my family.
But there’s a pang, a dart through the heart, when I wave them off to their respective homes and walk back inside to an empty house that mere moments earlier was ringing with laughter. In those silent moments, I feel bereft. That’s when memory of past times kicks in and I feel the loss of all those years of togetherness.
At times like that, my swirling thoughts begin to shape themselves into poetry – don’t know why, that’s just how my brain works. The result of these musings comes out something like this:
The Empty House
The last refrains of childhood long since sung,
Her ear yet harks small steps upon the stair.
Once more a joyful sorrow stills her tongue
As whispers of past laughter brush the air.
Rich memories her close companions now
While twilight steals across the fading years.
The trace of time transects her once smooth brow,
A mute account of pleasures, dreams and tears.
Her nest, once full, too soon released its stores
Of richest treasures, children bright with glee.
They spread their wings and flew to distant shores,
Released from close embrace on mother’s knee.
The life she knew, though gone, continues still
In images pirouetting through her mind.
With gratitude she’ll hold them close until
In death she leaves her solitude behind.
I know I’m but one of millions of moms who have had to untie the apron strings, open their hands and release their offspring into the world. I hope I don’t come off sounding pathetic, and I certainly am not expecting imminent death. But sometimes it takes a while to shake the longing for that chapter of my life when my maternal drives were daily satiated. Those were good years. Wonderful years. They enriched my life in ways I could never have anticipated or imagined. What kind of selfish wretch would I be to hold on to them, to deprive my children of experiencing that wonder and joy for themselves. So no, I wouldn’t go back, but I’ll hold onto the precious treasure of memories and keep writing poems when my heart aches. Maybe I’ll pass them on to my kids when their nests empty and they’ll suddenly begin to understand the loneliness of those good-byes.