And here we thought the messes of toys and little socks and shoes left lying around every room of our house, of a home smelling of dirty diapers and too-many-days-worn socks in need of washing and tennis-shoes that need airing, of the never ending dishes and pots and pans pyramiding in the sink and scattered throughout every square inch of counter space in the kitchen, would one day just simply be over and done with. Once the kids had grown and gone, that is. Like the fat lady singing!
We came to believe this. My husband and I daily hoped for it and (mostly) impatiently waited for. Our day will come was our sing-song. We will have all the time in the world for us again: peace and quiet divine and money back in our pockets to spend as we will. This kept us going, that we could look forward to the day when everything in our home would be back to spic and span and all things made to look in an orderly fashion, for this was our home once—everything in its place—in the beginning, everything smelling nice and clean and just the two of us to care for.
I am here to give testimony that we never heard the fat lady sing!
We have three children, one boy and two girls. The youngest, Jonathan, twenty-three, and the middle child, Iris, 26, are still living at home with us. But the oldest, Ivy, thirty-one, is married with two adorable boys of her own and finally settled in a little place all her own. And it is adorable: modest but comfortable, though things are usually scattered about—toys, socks, and shoes, little pants and shirts, laundry in need of folding or washing, as well dishes and pots and pans will often times clutter her kitchen counters—giving the place an untidy but normal appearance that is most often not much different than our home has been. However, it’s a home in every sense of the word.
Our daughter, Ivy, and her little family live only about ten minutes away and so they visit on a very regular basis. One could say that Ivy never left home. If you came to visit my home, you’d still find trails of little socks and shoes to match and little pants and shirts all strewn about in un-strategic places. Her little darlings, our precious grandsons, have made it a habit of taking off their clothing, stripping down to underwear, from the moment they step over the threshold—even if it’s the middle of winter—then they proceed to stampede through the house like wild puppies. Get out of the way all!
And wouldn’t you know it? Her husband is this really huge guy, six feet four inches and built more like an oak tree. And he has this oh-so extremely healthy appetite that I believe the Hulk couldn’t possibly eat more than he does. So when they visit—a few times a week, mind you, because they can’t seem to stay away—father and little genetic copies, six and seven years old now, sprouting right before our eyes, can pretty much leave our cupboards and refrigerator bare of all edible goodies.
Guess we’ll try to hoard our money a little later down the road. Double yikes!
Our son, Jonathan, recently married, juggles working part-time and finishing his college education and soon should have his BS. He, too, has dreams for their future as a couple, and thus saves his little earnings and makes plans around those dreams. But for the moment, he and his adorable young wife—a most talented artist (still un-discovered, and aren’t they all!), however in need of cooking lessons, I dare say—are living with us, though temporarily. In the meantime, in his spare time, when he is not studying, though quite studious that he is, has seen fit to take on a new hobby that he engages in with great delight and a fixed purpose, it seems, for the future. He is practicing brewing beer at home along with his new buddy, Iris’s boyfriend, Giuseppe.
Jonathan and Giuseppe consider themselves beer enthusiasts and true connoisseurs. And we indulge them, of course. (What are good parents for?!) When brewing and bottling (about once a week), bottles and bottle caps and beer ingredients and very large pots are scattered about and taking up residence in the kitchen: kitchen table and counters and even the dining room table are monopolized. Our cupboard under the stairs, once used for storing our Christmas decorations and what not, now serves as a fermenting cave and storage for their bottled beer. So anyone that walks through our front door can immediately detect the smell of ripening beer that has permeated to the walls of our home.
Have you ever toured a winery’s wine cellar? Oh yeah!
Iris and Giuseppe are very suitable for each other. Both are college grads with degrees: Iris in English and Giuseppe in Journalism. Iris works two part-time jobs, one as a writer for a small company on the Internet, and dreams of her break someday to become a full-time writer for a well known paper or magazine. And Giuseppe is a journalist with his reputation in the making; proudly, he heads the sports section and Web site to boot for a small city paper (and for the moment little pay). So both are still just barely getting their feet wet.
Iris, eye candy with her head firmly attached to her shoulders and the soul of an angel, is rather anal—compulsive anal—and so happens to have the cleanest and best kept room in the house. She also helps with cleaning the rest of my house: a modern day though self-made Cinderella, she scrubs bathrooms, sweeps floors, rotates towels, and even picks up jackets and sweaters lying about, un-hung, all on a weekly and faithful schedule.
Most amazing is that she still has time to write her articles, always meeting her deadlines. Wow!
Howard and I wouldn’t mind so much and would never dream of complaining, but imagine how we felt when one day opened our pantry to find every shelf labeled: cereals, canned goods, sweets, oils, flour, etc. Our mouths fell open as we gasped! And then Iris was suddenly standing behind us, appearing out of nowhere. Hands on her tiny, perfectly shaped hips and smiling wide, she proudly told us that this would now avoid all the confusion of finding an item because, frankly, nothing is ever where it should be. Who could argue with that?! But then later we had to ask ourselves just who was in charge here? And who were the parents and who were the children?
Oh, and did I also mention that Giuseppe is practically living with us, too? He even has a room of his own. He occupies the spare room since he spends just about every weekend with us because they cannot bear to be apart for too long. They are young; they are in love, after all.
Our thought-to-be-diminishing family numbers keep going up with the new additions of spouses and wannabe spouses and grandchildren. And you guessed it—the piles of dishes are often there since I now work full time and can’t get to them as often as I’d like. So on our weekends, we usually spend our time catching up with cleaning the kitchen and cooking, no less. What with all the traffic of people in our household now—really just visiting or passing through, of course—all those mouths that need feeding … Howard and I couldn’t think of not filling those empty bellies! For goodness sakes, they either have hollow legs or four stomachs. They eat like rented oxen!
We thought now that they’ve grown—and mostly married (and one child left to go)—they will most certainly be moving out to a place of their own, and so finally stand on their own two feet. We saw the light at the end of our long, dark-tunnel; our responsibilities waning and our days of leisure at arms-reach. We drooled at the prospect of it, savoring freedom. Just a little longer yet … and we held on to this thought for encouragement.
The kids all finally flew the coop, taking their belongings with them; they took their books, music instruments, pets, beds, toothbrushes, and house keys! And you guessed it, after many years it’s like they never left.
Today, Howard and I are old, wrinkled, gray-haired, and tired, but never alone. We are blessed almost daily with a visit from any one of my accumulated family members: my children and their spouses or my grandchildren—seven of them.
Four of our grandchildren are married and our two oldest grandsons are both expecting their first child. So we are soon to be great-grandparents. Our home will once again be filled with smelly diapers and little shoes and socks scattered about the house and toys discarded to create a mine field. After all, we’ve been through it all so many times, what’s a few more?
Howard and I never did get our so-called freedom and never did save money enough to take our far-away vacation across the ocean. We never got to see our home spic and span or smelling free of diapers or smelly sneakers. And we were never alone long enough to feel neglected or abandoned by our children—just long enough for us to know that they were all moved out, evidenced by their occasional absence and complete and total silence in the house.
So even if the fat lady sings, it isn’t over.
A parent’s love places no conditions, no demands, expects nothing in return. Love will just reciprocate tenfold. Our hearts simply, unreservedly, accommodated to make room for the many changes and challenges that came with being a parent. With every new experience, every new challenge, our hearts expand as needed. That through all the years of waiting for our so-called freedom, all the needless and waste-of-breath complaining for this and for that, and all the tears and fears and worries that no matter what just comes with the job, in spite of it all, we fell deeply and head over heels in love with our children. We liked them. We couldn’t help ourselves. And when they finally all left to pursue lives of their own, we fell victim to the empty nest syndrome—sweet icing on the cake. And yet every single day that has passed since, every little speck of our heart has missed them terribly. And, oh yes, we would do it all over again. In Howard’s and my hearts, there’s never been room for regrets or undoing.