Sunday, December 27, 2015

Return to Empty Nest

Up in the dark and out to a car with frosted windows, moonlight on frosted grass. Out onto the empty streets with sleepy grandkids in the back seat as we drive to the airport— the Christmas visit is over. The airport a-light with red and green and decorated trees, still a bit of holiday magic to soak in. Then teary hugs goodbye and back to the emptied-yet-again-nest.

Time to take out the leaf in the kitchen table, dismantle the electric train, box up the puzzles and children’s books to be brought down to the basement. No more scheduling the days built around nap schedules or plotting out walks based on playgrounds. Back on the shelf with the delicate items, out goes the car seat, once again the chance to play the piano without Zadie accompanying me with fisted commentary on the lower keys.

The bittersweet reclaiming of one’s home and adult life, minus both the music and the chaos of the pitter-patter or stampy-stompy of little feet, the delight of the four-year old mind of unbridled imagination and the ear-piercing screech of the four-year old want and will thwarted, the joy of the 5-month-old smile as you catch your grandson’s eyes mixed with the drool falling on your face as you lift him into airplane mode. Add the pleasure of your 16-year-old step-grandson wandering independently around the city with such newfound enthusiasm for the San Francisco you love mixed with the slight concern that he keeps returning to Haight St. The welcome and stimulating talks with your daughters and son-in-law and the lively energy of the 8-person extended family cooking, eating, playing games, partaking in the city’s holiday offerings combined with the complexity of coordinating 8 schedules and diverse needs and wants. At once missing it and relieved to be back in your own groove.

All this got me thinking how uniquely human this is. Do birds pushed out of the nest come back every few months to visit and see how the folks are doing? Do baby lions grown to adults feel the need to bond with Dad by going on a hunting trip? Mature beavers look up Mom and decide to build a new dam together? And is there such a thing as animal grand-parenting? Adult orangutans bringing the babies to their parents and saying, “Hey, can you take care of them for a while? I got some foraging to do and could use a nap.”?

I suppose I could actually do my five-minute Google research here and find out, but hey, after the delight and intensity of a truly marvelous week with the grandkids, I could use a nap.

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