This is it: The week I’d find out what kind of mother I really am. It’s the week both of my children are away together at sleep-away camp for the first time ever. And it’s the week I find out whether, seven years from now, I’ll be the kind of empty nester who:
A. turns the kids’ rooms into shrines where I cry myself to sleep at night.
B. sells the house and leaves no forwarding address.
I miss them. I do. But not in the weepy, lost-without-my-kids kind of way. I mean, it’s not the first time we’ve been apart. They sleep over at my in-laws’ house fairly regularly. But unlike at camp, they call every night with the run-down of their day. As a bonus, they sometimes arguewhile I’m on the other end of the line, all smug in the knowledge that my mother-in-law will have to break up that fight.
Of course, I spent much of June/July 2007 battling cancer in the hospital where I ached for them every single day. I’d put my cell phone on speaker so the nurses and my roommate could listen to them play the piano for me while I stifled sobs in my pillow.
But this is different. This is the first big step toward wondering where they are and when they will come back with my car. It’s the portal to the white-knuckle-nights of their teen years, and the do-you-really-need-a-waffle-iron shopping trips for their dorm rooms.
When I drop them off at college, will I cry on the way home? Or will I crank up the radio, singing along, “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye”?
The answer, it seems, came at a museum. I had a few minutes on Tuesday (hell, I had all day…the kids weren’t home) to drop by the Museum of Modern Art near where I’d eaten lunch, only to discover that it’s closed on Tuesdays. So, I wandered next door to the American Folk Art Museum, where I saw lots of things that reminded me of antiquing with my mother:
Yes, that’s right: It’s a ball made from a Wonder Bread bag. This thing had to have rolled over from MOMA, where they are currently displaying such “art” as a bale of hay and a piece of wax paper that appears to have been scraped against a cheese grater and then framed and hung on the wall.
“This isn’t folk art,” I mumbled to myself. “This isn’t art.” And suddenly, I wished my kids were there, especially Nicholas, my 13-year-old artist who, just last week, snapped a well composed photo of the Cape May Lighthouse with the intention of painting that image upon his return from camp. No doubt they would have cracked wise about the Wonder Bread ball, turning it into a running joke whenever we buy bread at the supermarket or make grilled cheese sandwiches. Suddenly, I really missed my kids, because I would have shared that with them, along with this:
He is surrounded by Christmas Seals from 1960, as though some kindergartener had gotten into Mommy’s desk while she was watching “Guiding Light,” and defaced the painting willed to her by her grandmother, who had brought it to America on a ship from Italy a century ago.
What kind of empty nester will I be? A or B? Or perhaps C. None of the above. The good news is that I have seven years until I find out for sure. Until then, I will stay out of the museums unless the kids can tag along.
Share, share: What kind of empty nester will you be?