Liberated, lonely, and blessed

By Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, February 2013

Life is richest and happiest when shared, complexity and messiness not withstanding.

When the moving truck—or in this case, the decommissioned handyDART—rolled out of our driveway yesterday with two daughters and all their worldly possessions on board, emotions went off in my head like fireworks. 

First: The Girls. There they go again, the eldest with plenty of independence under her belt and the youngest who first left home last summer. I’m lucky they’re only going across town to where a cozy apartment awaits, but still. I miss them already and I know their empty bedrooms will start shouting at me as soon as I head back indoors.

Second: The Stuff. There it goes again, its considerable weight squeezing protest out of the old bus’ motor. In bulk it amounts to a woolly mammoth and I can’t believe it was all in our house, though, to be fair, most of it sat in storage between the rafters above the garage while our eldest daughter was away in Cambodia. I imagine the house, like me, is feeling both liberated and lonely right now.

Third: The Revolving Door. We’re not unique in having our children return to the nest for a spell as their circumstances dictate, especially not in this town where it takes serious money to live independently. Our son moved back so he could afford to become a student again. The girls came home to regroup while their next apartment underwent renovations. That’s how we all ended up under the same roof in December, a month that turned out to be magical, wonderful and more hectic than ever.

Fourth and final: The Connections. I must be frank—having the kids literally home for Christmas derailed my own work schedule and put me squarely back into mom mode. (Everyone knows that once you’re the mom, you’re always the mom, no matter how clever you are at soliciting help. You’re doing the soliciting? There’s your evidence.)

So no, the month didn’t go by without me feeling the odd tinge of resentment and exasperation as I foraged in the freezer for the next meal or stumbled over their shoes—all those shoes!—in the kitchen. But those aggravations were minor; in fact, I kept reminding myself how much I preferred the clutter, cheerful chaos, ringing phone and revolving front door to the opposite—a perfectly kept home that rarely sees guests. (We visited an impeccable home once and when our hostess left the room for a minute, our son, then five, whispered urgently, “Will our house look like this when we’re grown up and gone?”) I might aspire to such a vignette in moments of frustration over reading glasses lost under a heap of laundry and the garage being a life-sized Jenga game, but having the kids home again served to clarify that life is richest and happiest when it’s shared with special people, the complexity and messiness of it all not withstanding.

Have I mentioned already that we also looked after a dog during this time? And that we helped dear and long-time friends relocate from a seniors’ home to a brand new beginning in a Sidney apartment? (Here’s hoping I have that kind of energy and aspiration when I’m in my 80s!) It was gratifying to see their growing excitement as we rode the elevators up and down, systematically dismantling the old life and assembling the new. If you want to feel invigorated by the kind of day you’ve had, just spend it making a difference for someone else.

In the last days of the month we attended a remarkable fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. The groom, dapper man that he was, related how the hands of time had led them from one decade to the next as beloved children came along and new acquaintances evolved into a cherished circle of love and friendship. Several guests spoke of the couple’s enduring warmth and generosity. What a blessed legacy, I remember thinking. What more is there to want?

So now here I am, listening to the bus grinding down to the highway before I head back in to resume my life. However it goes, my ultimate goal has always been to live fully and die without regrets. These days I think I’m on the right track.

Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic wrote this column between loads of laundry and has yet to find her reading glasses.