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Two Full Hearts in an Empty Nest

We have had the incredible joy of celebrating four of our children’s weddings in the last 18 months. Huge changes in the Boom family! Changes that I have anticipated and been preparing for. Some years ago, I looked into the future and realised that life as I’d known and loved it for the last 30 years was going to change. I began to ready myself. I started praying that God would show me my next big assignment; that I would catch a vision for the next season of my life. I realised that the busy, noisy bustle of my wonderful large family would give way to quieter, slower way of life; that Chris and I would once again enjoy each other’s company and do things together – just the two of us. As we both began to think about these changes, and experience frequent evening meals when there was just the two of us, we would invariably look at each other and smile and say, ‘Back to where it all began. Just the two of us.’

I know that some of you reading this will be thinking it sounds like a dream – that you can’t wait for the solitude and quiet. The thought of enjoying a candlelit dinner for two sounds like heaven. And it is! But we all need to find the joy of whatever season we’re in. As Jim Elliott said, ‘Wherever you are, be all there.” Your time will come. In the meantime, enjoy the noise. Revel in the bustle and constant activity of your children.

I recently finished reading Fence Around the Cuckoo, the wonderful autobiography of Ruth Park, who grew up in New Zealand during the Depression. It’s charming, witty and poignant. The title is related to a quote in the front page of the book: “The three wise men of Gotham loved the spring so dearly and could not bear to bid her farewell, so they built a fence around the cuckoo.”

When I read that, I had a burst of self-realization – I have dearly loved my house being full of children and have so dearly loved home-schooling them, that I’ve been tempted to build a fence around that season, so it never ends. But I mustn’t do that. The cuckoo must fly away at the end of spring. The children must fly from home. And I must be willing to let them go. But I can watch them fly away with my blessing and love. As someone said, we’ve been preparing them to walk away from us ever since we helped them take their first steps.

Last weekend, Jacob, our youngest, married Christina. As Chris and I helped him carry out boxes of clothes and possessions to the car, the season of raising a large family closed behind us. We became official empty-nesters. That night, I folded the last few underpants and shirts he’d left behind and thought about the past three decades I’ve had of folding mountains of washing. From now on, I won’t need to hold each pair of undies or socks up and ask, ‘Whose are these?”

Maybe that sounds wonderful to you busy mamas now, but I must confess, I had a wee cry that night. And when Pierre the cat prowled around upstairs meowing mournfully, looking for Jacob, I cried again. But only for a moment. There are two full hearts in this empty nest. I poured out my thanks to God for the amazing journey I’ve had as a mother, and then turned my heart to the future, to new joys, new adventures. Who knows, I may be needed to help teach my grandchildren in years to come. (And I can always visit my grown children in their own homes and help fold their washing :))

But in the meantime, I have caught a vision for this next season of my life. I’m going to enjoy the companionship of my best friend and lover. We’re going to have adventures together. I’m going to light a candle for each meal for two. in front of our Homewood Stove. Each day I’m going to enjoy sitting in my quiet office and writing, writing, writing. I’m going to put on my overalls and help Chris build his implement shed and the pioneer cabin in Lantern Waste. I’m going to invite the family over for meals and revel again in their noisy laughter and banter. Our challenge as two full-hearted empty nesters is to maintain a warm, loving gezellig home that they will still want to come home to. And bring their children to. Now that’s a lovely thought.

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