When the oldest of my sons was preparing to leave for college, I spent the last night of our family vacation sobbing like I would never see him again. Even as I cried, I tried to analyze why I was behaving so irrationally, considering he was only going to Pennsylvania.
“It must be all about our mortality,” I mused soulfully, assuming there is always a profound, often obscure meaning behind all human behavior. It couldn’t possibly be as simple as I was going to miss him.
By the time the third son was leaving, it was a quick hug and kiss at the dorm room amid piles of unpacked stuff, because my husband and I wanted to hit the local diner for lunch.
When the fourth and fifth sons decided college was not their thing, I figured the empty nest syndrome was a vague promise that would never be fulfilled in my lifetime, though there was a sliver of hope when son number six went off to NYC to study drama.
When the revolving door began spinning with their subsequent (temporary) returns home in well-timed succession, some staying longer than others, I was certain I would never know the “pain” of having the house to myself.
But I have since learned, as so many before me, that the empty nest syndrome is not so much a physical space phenomenon as it is an emotional one, and no matter how many big feet are still roaming through the house, it’s possible, or more to the point probable that, as a mother, you will, at some point, feel alone. It seems the empty nest is not your house as much as it is your heart.
The beautiful thing about the heart is how it grows to hold more love, more people, new experiences and creative energies. If we open our hearts to all things new, it will never be empty.