As my friends know, I’ve recently become an empty nester. While I love my three boys immensely, when the last one flew the coop last month I secretly did a happy dance. I was free at last. You see, for the past two decades I have raised them largely alone. Yes, when they were young I had every other weekend free and Wednesday night dinners were solo. But, the day-to-day operations like homework, middle of the night fever, soccer practice, piano lessons were all me, not to mention my role as sibling referee, tutor, enforcer of curfews, behind-the-wheel driving teacher. All me.
Some people have a junk drawer. I have junk closets. I decided it was high time I reclaimed my closet space. Today I chose to tackle one child’s bedroom closets. This child had a penchant for clothes, toys, and make believe; he was a pack-rat-in-training.
Of all my three boys, my youngest was the happiest little boy. He could entertain himself for hours on end, play make believe and dress up, play with action figures, and help me cleanup around the house while singing a tune. While we often butted heads we also shared many happy memories and cleaning his closets took me back to the days of him kissing me all over while I dried him from his bath or him playing for hours by himself while singing opera.
As I dug through mountains of books and toys and clothes long outgrown, I came across so many things. Things were either tossed or placed in a give-away pile. Purging is very hard for me but I made progress and was patting myself on the back. The giveaway and trash bags filled up quickly and were then hauled to the curb or the car.
While cleaning and sorting, one toy stopped me dead in my tracks. Two Face. The older two boys couldn't have cared less about these dolls-for-boys called action figures. That all changed with Christian. He loved them, talked for them, and collected them all. His favorite one was Two Face. So when I came across this particular figure, I stopped, picked him up and was flooded with emotions. My eyes filled with tears as I remember this sweet child, now grown and living on his own. The tears were from a raw emotion that comes from the bittersweet mixture of dreams unfulfilled, the unstoppable passage of time and happy times that seem so distant. The one thing I’ve learned along the way is my dreams aren’t necessarily my children's dreams. We have to teach our children to fly, let them fly away and let them soar or reach for their own stars. So, in cleaning his closet, I bid farewell to my dreams and accepted the reality of my sons paths.
How could this happen in a blink of an eye? Well, I’m not sure how it happens so fast but I am here to tell you it does. The cliche’s are true. Time flies. No, it actually zooms at record breaking speed. So while time is still on your side, hug your child a little tighter today, read to them five minutes more, let them stay up a bit longer tonight because before you know it, you’ll have clean closets and only memories to recall.
When I finished purging the space, I felt happy to have two reclaimed closets in this bedroom. Empty hangers now await guests. Toys and clothes are gone and sorted and given away to thrift shops. One small trinket remains. I couldn’t give him away. Two Face sits on the dresser, reminding me of happy days spent with my youngest son, Christian. And when I look at Two Face I can still feel the wet kisses after bath time.
Happy birthday, Christian.
Dee Antil is a multifaceted woman much like the stones she uses in her artisan jewelry designs. She has worn many hats from nurse anesthetist to single mother, founder of non-profit art co-op, amateur photographer, orchid grower, exercise/nutrition enthusiast. She also loves design, fashion, and the sea.