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A boy's empty room means new phase for mother

Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013, at 3:01 PM

If I knew it would be so hard to for them to leave, I might never have invited them to stay so long.

Oh, I'm not talking about a stray puppy or even a lost cat. I'm referring to my children.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my sons and I begged them to stay young, forever our little boys. I believe the perfect time in our life was when they were between the ages of 7 and 12. There were no diapers, no teenage rebellion and they slept through the night. It was heaven, pure heaven. I never wanted it to end.

But despite my protests, they grew up and left, mostly voluntarily. The truth is they were more than ready and willing to leave their parents and their childhood behind.

When they left for college, I grieved and I empty-nested and I grieved some more. When my oldest graduated from college and moved into his own home, I grieved again.

But sometime in the past 18 months, it dawned on us there is life after children. Although all but four years of our 28-plus-year marriage we have been parents, empty nesting doesn't mean life is over. In fact, it's entirely possible my husband and I will spend more time without children underfoot than we did with them.

About the same time I made this realization, I began to envision new uses for my son's bedroom. It had become a room where no one lived or even used -- a room he wasn't interested in moving back into, a room we could re-decorate and make into a much needed office, a room where my husband could store his bills and piles of farm records which currently sat on my kitchen table.

The problem was, the childhood room wasn't empty. The most important components for a room were gone, the bed, a dresser, even the curtains. But it was still full -- of tractors, keepsakes, school books, yearbooks, clothes, dust bunnies and even one half-empty dresser.

At first, I liked it that way. I liked the comfort of walking by the room and still seeing evidence of our oldest son. It was a shrine of sorts. But eventually the pain subsided and I started to see the potential for change.

But it seems while my oldest son was more than ready to move on, he didn't think his parent's should. Or least his tractors shouldn't.

I could have thrown them all in a box, or given them to a good charity. It wasn't that easy, though. He wanted to keep them, even wanted to take them. Just not today, or tomorrow, or the next day ...

I remember having the same conflict with my mother. In her case, a well-timed move into another home solved the problem. The new house and the new bedroom was no longer mine. I still remember the stabbing pain when it dawned on me, perhaps for the first time, my childhood was really over. I had to take the things I wanted or chance losing them forever.

In our case, moving wasn't an option, so I made the same ultimatum. I would keep some boxes and put them along side the other boxes and boxes of toys, school papers and photos. But I no longer wanted to be responsible for those things I knew someday he would want. From experience I know important possessions have a way of getting lost. I didn't want that to happen.

Eventually, slowly and even sadly the boyhood bedroom was cleared. Awards, signs and photos which marked 24 years of a boy's life and 22 years in the same room were taken down. Legos, tractors, toys, piggy banks and shelves were moved to a new home.

The new office is well on its way to being completed. Fresh paint, new curtains, filing cabinets, an old dining room table to spread out bills and piles and even a single bed once tucked in a storage closet will fill the empty space.

But that will never fill the hollow place in my heart. If I want to visit the tractors and the other keepsakes I don't have far to travel. And my son, who works with us, I see every day. For that I am thankful.

But with this final move, I finally grasped the truth.

My mom didn't move on when I moved out, although it seemed that way to me.

Now I know, forever in my thoughts, when I see the office, I'll always picture the first night in a new home tucking a little boy in his new room. I'll see two brothers laughing, giggling, fighting and playing.

Despite the new decor and even purpose of the room, in my mind the memories, the feelings, the love will forever linger.

And that will never change.

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Couldn't read this without a tear in my eye. (Both times I read it.) I understand this all too well. I wouldn't have it any other way because we wanted our children to grow and fly away and become independent people, yet know we were here if they needed us. I have all those boxes that I should have time to go through and organize a little or just reminisce. I overheard a conversation of one our kids not too long ago that he was having with a friend and he said that he had had a wonderful childhood and lots of good memories. Now we all know that raising kids means there has been some bad moments, but hopefully as we keep everything in perspective, we also remember life is good, our kids are such special people in our lives, and that we will move on and continue to grow and evolve, also.

-- Posted by music12345 on Tue, Jan 22, 2013, at 8:07 PM

A new office? Be sure you keep a dictionary in it. I hear they're wonderful company ;) Beautiful as always Ms. Gorrell.

-- Posted by SayleenCounty on Wed, Jan 30, 2013, at 11:14 PM

I have a feeling I'm going to be able to relate to all of this. And it'll happen all too soon.

-- Posted by letyre on Thu, Jan 31, 2013, at 9:41 AM

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