The Nest, Emptied

empty nest, children, college, alone, love, quiet(In honor of my brother and sister-in-law, my colleagues, my friends, whose last child has just ‘flown the coop’)

For so long, I had listened to the clang of the alarm clocks waking up the children, the limped thump of our son walking stiffly to the bathroom, the feminine growls of his older sister as she demanded her time in that same room.

Suddenly, these morning sounds ceased. Daughter was in Florence for her junior year abroad. Son began his first year at a university thousands of miles away, and I was, once again, childless.

The quiet was surprising.

I had forgotten the time, over 20 years ago, when the only sound was of my breathing, my own steps to the refrigerator or radio, my sighs as I thought out loud, the tick tock of the clock. Once the first child arrived, silence was and child, nest full, family

I never missed the lack of noise, though. Beauty was the baby’s laugh, the tottler’s scream of delight, the sick child’s feverish moan, the teenager’s cry of a friend’s abandonment, the whelp of joy when a college invitation arrived.

I loved the excited conversations after school over chocolate chip cookies, and the sleepy sentences exchanged early in the morning in the car on the way to school.  Dinnertime was never a quiet affair. As the man-of-the-house expanded on his notion of “charm school” and the merits of not talking with food in your mouth and keeping your elbows off the table, the four of us discussed, loudly at times, the politics of the week, the latest football scores, and why 10th graders weren’t allowed to go to unsupervised parties.

republicans vs democrats, conversation, familyAs the two grew, the conversation matured on the topics of sex, the unpredictability of the weather, and Republicans vs. Democrats. The responses were never boring; the walls were never quiet.

sister and brother, empty nest, family

sister and brother, coop flown

But then, a cloud of silence descended upon our household. I could hear myself think again. I heard the wind against the walls, and the old refrigerator’s hum of discontent. The leaves of the eucalyptus tree blew loudly outside my bedroom doors, and the foghorns moaned early every morning. The doves cooed outside the bathroom window, and my footsteps followed my every move.

Silence is not golden, nor is it really possible. The absolute quiet was filled with other sounds, but none were as gratifying as the noise that accompanied the happy home when it was filled with a growing family.


we got a puppy.

empty nest, family, puppy

30 thoughts on “The Nest, Emptied

  1. Awww… cute puppy! It is so noisy here you would think it was a group of rowdy party goers and I have just two kids. Not complaining though… The political discussions, even from my middle-schooler, around the dinner table, are classic. They make for wonderful memories.


  2. How abruptly that quiet hits when they leave home, despite all those years-in-the-making when the overwhelming moments ot parenthood make that point in the future seem so far off. This is beautiful!


  3. This post has has got me feeling so nostalgic. I can relate. On another note…I hear that your daughter now lives in my hometown! Just curious to know exactly where?


  4. Pam, almost eight years ago, I started girding myself for my son’s departure for college a year and a half away. And I started not a moment too soon, because I needed all that time to (1) convince my husband that we needed a puppy, (2) research the best breed of hypoallergenic puppy (my husband’s the allergic one), (3) find the best breeder, and (4) order a puppy and wait for the litter to be born. It all paid off seven years ago when we got Murphy, our four-legged saint, and yes, he absolutely eased the pain of my son’s departure. Of course, two years later, when we started worrying that Murphy was lonely all day with no one home, and too sedentary for his own good, we had to – You can guess the end, right? We got Finney, our second goldendoodle. I’m counting on these two to get us over the hump a few years from now when our daughter flies the coop!


    • I guessed the end when you stated, “we started worrying that Murphy was lonely..” Lucky you, lucky Murphy, and lucky Finney! I’m thinking Henry may be ready for a brother or sister soon. Dogs don’t make up for children, but they add a whole new dimension to parenting and loving another being! :+)


  5. Not the same, but I so miss Sam (husband)!! Not that I’m lonely, but just so used to sharing things….good and bad….
    Haven’t decided about getting a dog, it’s hard to leave them alone for so long on my busy days….


    • Yes, a loved one who’s left us too soon will always be in our hearts every second of every day. Not to urge you to get a puppy, but it’s amazing how a good dog listens to you, and in his or her way, replies. Fabulous company, too. :+)


  6. Pam, you hit the nail on the head. I’m just getting used to being a couple again, after a house filled with 3 children. Poignant story – love the ending!


  7. A lovely story. My son went to a university in the city where we live, so he didn’t leave then. He got a job in the city as well, so he didn’t leave then. He’s been looking at condos and houses to buy. Yipes! So, he hasn’t left yet. Which is awesome as I get to be friends with him in a way a mother can’t when they’re younger.


  8. I hope your new adorable addition to your family will take up the silent times and help ease the pain of empty-nesting. Wait until the Grandkids arrive. You’ll have the joyful noise of youngsters back in your house, even if it will only be temporary. 🙂


  9. Your ending was priceless. It turned my own inward sadness of a featherless nest (for more than 8 years now) to a smile and chuckle of understanding. Although my surrogates are cats. Thanks for sharing. I now have seven grands that bring back that noise from time to time. They all live fairly close so I see them at least once a week. But it is a different noise – somewhat different – but joyful all the same.
    My three girl’s constant noise was music; not on the boom boxes but from their instruments. And I do mean instruments. My youngest had a huge trap set and her next oldest sister had three keyboards/synths. The oldest never ever stopped singing, and sometimes they did it all at the same time (separately and/or together).


    • Oh, my, it became quiet figuritively AND literally when your nest became un-feathered. I can imagine how hard that silence must have been. And I agree, the grands add wonderful sound, but it’s still not the same.


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