The Difficulties of Downsizing: Reflections of an Empty Nester
by Barbara_Donnelly_Lane
 Education and the Arts
January 07, 2013 11:23 AM | 2101 views | 4 4 comments | 74 74 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

I have happily raised a son in the suburbs of Cobb County, but now it’s time to downsize an empty nest. While I am excited to swap one lifestyle for another, I would be lying if I said moving isn’t hard.

After all, while the fingerprints have already been painted away as we get the house ready for realtors, there are memories soaked into our home’s walls that will never be erased. We have been here for a very long time, more than a decade.

In fact, when I look out the kitchen window at a modest pond, which is our backyard, I can still see a troop of young Boy Scouts lined up on the dam with fishing poles in hand way back when George W. Bush was still president. With a black dog trailing close behind him, my freckle-faced son passed out root beers and bait. My husband helped all cast their lines, proudly reel in their catches, those twisting silver fish, flopping hard when thrown in the grass, catching the attention of the canine. In addition, there have been many birthday cakes served on our back deck, tie-dye parties, fireworks, glasses of wine, lazy days in hammocks, plates full of hamburgers and hot dogs straight from the grill.

Once when sipping a cup of coffee, reading a book in the afternoon, I spied a teenager’s moon bottom as he took up a dare to skinny dip, little thought to the dangly things that might attract snapping turtles. I had fun making his face turn as red as the sun when calling out to warn him of his audience.

There have many other nights when the Jon boat has slid across those black waters, Georgia stars twinkling above our neighborhood, with boys and girls paddling to the middle of what is in the grand scheme of bodies of water just a manmade puddle to sit and talk away the hours in those early years of adolescence before drivers’ licenses were earned and cars brought the freedom of wider travel.

Then there was the great freeze of one winter when chunks of ice floated in the water. My son and his friend--the one who insisted shorts were plenty warm in January--found great sport in maneuvering around the ice—my kid perched on the bow like George Washington crossing the Delaware as he barked out orders to his blue-skinned paddler.

But I will not just miss the memories of people, the many special events marked with friends and family in this special place.

I have also watched all manners of creatures visiting our tiny tract of wild including white tailed deer in the wee morning hours. There is a crane with almost blue feathers who is a frequent visitor to our pond. I have long called him Ichabod, and I am always excited to see him.

Just the other day he stood like an aristocrat holding court at the edge of the water, not even flinching when a flock of honking Canadian geese splashed down for a rest from their long journey to Florida.

The squirrel with a nest in the scraggly oak is Andy. All the rabbits are either Clementine or Winston. Harriet is our hawk. (She is the reason the rabbits’ names are recycled, and the scampering chipmunks are never given monikers.)

I have watched blue birds and cardinals and wrens eating birdseed off the deck’s railings. (Andy, too, which is why he is fat.) I have listened to the music of frogs and crickets in the spring, marveled at the magic of fireflies lighting the back woods at dusk, twinkling like so many strings of light, as if it was always Christmas in my corner of Georgia.

Just before New Year’s Eve, my college freshman had his last basement party ever in this house. A familiar parade of boys shot pool into the wee hours before the carpet cleaners came to wash away all the grime of such gatherings, and I was reminded for a final time how lovely it is to have been in a place long enough to truly get to know many of your child’s friends well.

As always, I asked them about their schoolwork, their jobs, love lives, and families. They know if they are going to be raiding my refrigerator, they will have to engage in a conversation. But none of them ever seem to mind. Some of them touch base even when my son isn’t home, and I am so grateful that I have had the great privilege of watching so many children grow up to be such fine, young men.

Yes. Moving is hard because it means moving forward.

Fortunately, the things that really enrich our lives are never really downsized. Time Time marches onward, but relationships and love can never be packed up in a box.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Jim Newman
January 13, 2013
Beautifully written, Barbara! Memories are wonderful, even when your surroundings change.
Concerned Citizen
January 08, 2013
It's easy to understand the lyrics that recall "Georgia on my mind." You have some beautiful memories that time will not dim.
Yuevonne Lansinger
January 08, 2013
How touching your comments about your home are. You have some wonderful memories and I'm glad that you were smart enough to have paid attention to all those events. Too many people are in such a hurry that they miss the important things. Good luck in Texas...I'll see you there!
Ali Laipple
January 08, 2013
Beautiful, Barbara. :)
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