Monday, December 14, 2009

Decorating the Empty Nest

The daughters call my house the Christmas boutique: I call it home. But decorating the empty nest. Not so fun. There is no lack of things to choose from: Over the years I have accumulated many boxes of Christmas treasure. The question used to be where to put it, now the question is how much can I leave in the boxes. As I was decorating, memories flowed. I particularly enjoyed my recollections of my first venture out into the world and my journey back home for the holidays.

I was over twenty when I started college and I thought I was the most independent of my siblings: The most adventurous; the most mature. Being the middle child, I thought I was the one that didn’t need the apron strings, but now I know that I had just pulled them off by holding them so tightly.

I chose a small, religious-based southern college hundreds of miles and several states away. Glad to be going: Happy to be on my own. It was fun. It was exciting. It was different. Ah, college. Time rushed by. It was Thanksgiving. There was a mass exodus of students going home. I wasn’t one of them. All of those states and miles were not in my favor, now. I caught up on my sleep, my papers, my laundry, my letters, my dorm room cleaning, hmmm. On Thanksgiving Day there was a big dinner in the campus cafeteria. I didn’t go. I went for a walk in the woods and I was (choose one:)

1. Impressed by nature

2. Homesick

3. Ready for more challenges

4. None of the above

The correct answer is (2). Homesick. Everything reminded me of home--even sights and smells that probably should not have been included in the category, I could somehow relate to that perfect spot on earth. Well, now, the only remedy was to go home for Christmas. Did I want to exchange snow at Christmas ( a new experience) for sunshine(the same old familiar stuff)? You betcha. I needed to inform my parents that they needed to send tickets for whatever--bus, train, plane—just get me home. I had to wait in line for the one phone in the dorm hallway (the college thought we were there to be studious, not talk on the phone) and I smiled in anticipation. My mom answered and I jumped to the middle of the reason for my call, because every minute was metered and they really valued brevity during phone calls. She listened and then said, Here, you better talk to your dad. He listened. He went to the middle of his reasoning. He reminded me that we had decided, before I left for school, that I wouldn’t be coming home during the school year. It was less than a year’s time that I would be away; it was too far; it was too expensive; our three minutes are up. Call over. Smile gone—new plan.

I had heard that one of the guys who happened to live in an adjacent town to my hometown was going to drive home and was taking paying passengers. I had an emergency bank account in town. What could be more emergency than going home? I put on my coat and gloves and knee socks and struck out for town. It was all downhill easy, but going back uphill was a little breathtaking. Not so much so as to deter me from my appointed task, and so I went straight to the boys’ dorm and had the young man paged. When he showed up, I waved my money around and begged incoherently and randomly for one of the seats in his car. Yeah, o.k. (Wow, that was easy.) BUT, there’s no eating or drinking or chewing gum in the car. You can bring one small suitcase and one small purse. You can have a pillow and a blanket (small, as I remember). Rest stops will be timed and you must be ready to go at the appointed time. Hey, I’ll type this all up and leave it in your campus mailbox. (Great, there is now a car code. Going to a small, religious-based southern college in the early ‘60’s meant there was a dress code, a dorm code, a dating code, a study code, a moral code, and now, a car code. I finished that school totally encrypted. Oh, well, small price, right?)

Skipadeedoodahing back to my dorm, I thought of my next requirement. I would have to tell my parents. I would much rather rush up to the front door and yell, surprise, surprise, but the car code required that someone pick me up at a designated parking lot in Driver Boy’s hometown. And so, I wait in line, dial home, bypass my mom, put dad on the phone, please, and sure enough, my definition of emergency is not the same as his. He does, however, agree not to leave me stranded on an unknown parking lot beyond walking and carrying my own suitcase, purse, pillow and blankie distance from home. I am homeward bound! The visit was HYPER (one of my Greek vocabulary words, look it up!) I’ll have to save those stories for another session of visiting with” you all“(one of my southern expressions). At the end of the two (too) short weeks, we kept a predawn rendezvous on that same parking lot. My dad wasn’t a huggy, kissy kind of man, and so our leave-taking was brief, but when he shook Driver Boy’s hand and his voice was full of tears as he said Drive with care, I knew our definition of emergency had blended.


Did I say empty nest? It actually is very crowded with all the precious people with whom I have shared my life. Including you. Have a blessed, down home Christmas--wherever that may be.

Posted by The Editor for Gigi

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