Empty nesting


    “Okay…How’s everything else going?”

    “Same, pretty much the same.”

    “Did you want to talk about anything el –“

    “No, I’m good, look I have to go class and everything so…”

    “Why are you rushing me off the phone? I love you, sweetie, I just want to talk to you.”

    “Right it’s fine, ok I have to go talk to you later, bye Mom.”

    “ Okay…Bye dar–“

    And then she cuts me off just like that! I mean, that’s how every phone conversation’s gone for the past three years since she left the house so I shouldn’t be too surprised or anything like that. Look, I’m not obsessed with talking on the phone myself, I’m not really that fond of it at all I just do it because I have to, you know, when you’re in real estate it’s all talk, talk, talk, with the clients, with their urban planning department, with the schmuck owners of construction companies but I like to think I do the job well enough to make it not a terribly unpleasant experience. I mean, let’s be honest, I can barely hear anything above the conversational shouting of another increasingly hard-of-hearing 54-year-old, you know? So, I guess that makes it tough for her but you’d think that a girl could spare her mother, be a little nicer than she would to someone trying to mug her on the street, you know, showing affection isn’t a crime as far my knowledge goes. I just don’t understand. I miss her and I know she misses me because for Christ’s sake when she comes home for the holidays she hugs me so tightly that I think I’ll never breathe again and she latches on like she did as a baby when she’d pull at my pearl necklaces, grip my ring finger until I held her tightly and kissed that smooth little forehead.

    She always smelled so sweet! She had this sort of rosy smell to her and I thought, my god, this baby really is a garden fairy or something. It was always our joke, I mean, I’d say to her that I found her sleeping in a flower patch by the house, left by the fairies because her ears were so small and kind of pointy at the tops and her eyes were so green. And she used to just love that, and she’d laugh and laugh and when I’d come home from work late at night and go to tuck her in, even though she’d already tucked herself in I suppose, but I wanted my turn to do it because she was so self-sufficient I didn’t have much to do and everything, I’d catch her sleeping in those torn-up white mesh wings from her old Halloween costume, the crumbling silver glitter all over her bed sheets. And I’d laugh! And I’d try to quietly sneak out before she woke up but our old floor boards are so, so, so creaky you wouldn’t believe it. I always told her Dad, when he’d get all paranoid about the neighbors getting those fancy electronic burglary systems, posting the little warning signs on their lawn, that we didn’t need those kinds of things — we have the floor! You can hear absolutely everyone who steps foot in our house anywhere they are, I mean, even if I was upstairs in the bedroom I would be able to tell that she was in the den in the far left corner taking out some board games or something, you know? I liked that kind of thing, I mean now it’s just terrible she’s all over the goddamn city these days I don’t know if she’s in a dumpster or a dive bar or what.

    Where are those wings things now? I could swear that I put them with the scarves and hats and mittens in the coat closet by the front door, but I’ve looked two days in a row now and I just can’t seem to dig them out from under all the other crap that everyone put in there. God, all her dad’s old leather jackets and my cheap fabric tote bags from 30 years of business conferences in Atlantic City. We really need to clean up that crap, it’s totally suffocating, I mean, I can barely reach in there without getting my arm swallowed whole by the layers of musty wool winter wear. The whole house, really, just seems full of all of this stuff we don’t use anymore, clogging every corner and closet filling up all of my space here so I can barely breathe between it. But it’s clean, I mean, I can’t complain, really. Not of my doing though! It’s all her dad, Barry’s really quite devoted to cleaning everything, keeping it ship-shape. What a godsend — I am completely terrible about those things, I just get home from work and I’m so goddamn tired, you know? And it’s like really, who wants to be schlepping a vacuum around at ten at night? Beats me. He really gets in every corner too, if he does a job it’s not half-assed, he goes all the way, I mean when she used to wear those little wings to sleep that silver glitter would just dust the floor for months and months he’d be so mad he couldn’t get it out! He’d always yell and say she was ruining the carpeting with her dress-up and that she was really too old for that kid stuff anyway, you know, like I guess most 2nd graders are past that kind of thing once they have a good dose of elementary school in them but everyone’s different and whatever makes my baby happy is what I always say. You’ve just got to have priorities.

    But so anyway I just don’t understand now, you know, because if I ever bring them up she gets all flustered and red and huffy and won’t talk to me for the entire afternoon and I’m like come on, you’re finally home, can we please get some lunch?  I mean I’m paying and everything, it’s like calm down, can’t you stand to be in a room with me for more than three seconds? I mean, really. But she’ll shake her head and rattle off some vague plans with Jennifer, or Emily, or Stephanie or some high school friend and I’m just thinking you talk to those girls all the damn time. And I’ll say well fine, because I want her to be happy and everything and if she can do that somewhere else that’s fine too, you know, but before she goes out she needs to stop covering her goddamn ears and her face with that long hair. Just put it behind your ears, I say to her, just sweep it away it’s so silky and long, it’s just so pretty, but nobody can see those cute ears and face if you have it all covered up like that, I mean people are going be like is she hiding a scar or something? It doesn’t make sense to me but what do I know, I’m just a mother, right? Old and out of style or something like that. But she yells at me now and tells me her ears are ugly and pointy and that she absolutely hates wearing her hair like that and why don’t I know anything about her. I don’t see that, so how am I supposed to understand? I just always thought they were so cute and she sees them as some sort of crazy birth defect, so dramatic really, always exaggerating everything. Well, so she covers them up and runs out the door and I just wait on the couch and order in my dinner in case she needs me. And Barry of course starts his ranting and yells about how she’s so ungrateful and look what she’s become and all these things and that I waste my time on her but, I mean, what else do I have to do, you know, it’s not some sort of burden or anything, so I’ll just give a little look through the closet tomorrow. Who knows, they could be there buried in some corner I didn’t see before.


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