So I'd just hoisted two gallons of Minute Maid orange juice (with extra pulp) into my cart at Sam's Club. I was wheeling past the frozen entrees when an unexpected thought entered my head: What'll it be tonight--pueblo pie or vegetarian lasagna? That thought seems innocent enough. Only thing is I haven't purchased ready-made pueblo pie since...well, let's see...1994? Wow, I had time-traveled back to when the kids were 5 and 7.
1994, that was a lean year. The gallery wasn't in the best of locations, business suffered, and so Bennie took a job selling electronics. When I could orchestrate it, I swapped child care with other parents. When I could find an affordable, nurturing family day care arrangement, I consigned the kids there. When I had to, I would pack up Flan and Oaks and carry them to the gallery with me. Labor-intensive, homemade meals were not a regular occurrence. Defrosted pueblo pies were.
Do I want to go back to those days? Not on your life. But, despite myself, that afternoon at Sam's I found a tear rolling down my cheek while I remembered the good old days. Must have something to do with Oakley leaving the nest. Never mind he's at UNM, an hour's drive away. Never mind he's a thoughtful e-mailer. Never mind I've seen him twice since he moved out and that he's coming home in a couple of days for autumn break. In a warehouse club, in Frozen Foods, I experienced a pang of Empty Nest Syndrome. What's next? A head-banging episode in Home Depot?
Why do they call it Empty Nest Syndrome? I mean the Empty Nest part I get. But doesn't syndrome imply a group of symptoms? As in The China Syndrome? Or irritable bowel syndrome? I looked it up. A syndrome doesn't necessarily include a bunch of symptoms. It can just be a pattern of behavior that is associated with a certain situation, as in sadness associated with kids leaving the house.
According to the Psych Today website, "feelings of sadness are normal at this time. It is also normal to spend time in the absent child's bedroom to feel closer to him or her." I'm not at home right now, so I'm doing the nest best (get it--nest best?) thing: I'm posting a picture of Oakley's room. When he comes home for autumn break, he will see it just as he left it. Well, maybe a little neater. The scream poster still pulls the colors of the room together--pumpkin, cobalt blue, and jungle green. These were colors of his choosing and yes, they SCREAM. As does the painting of the flaming Volkswagen van Oakley salvaged from the reject pile of Santa Fe High's art department.
Then there's Dave Archer's reverse glass painting of outer space, won by the future Empty Nester in an art sales contest in Sausalito in 1982. "Galactic Moment" is a reminder of a still more remote past. A time when I went about my business winning sales contests and ordering lattes at midnight and sleeping in until 8 a.m. A time when the persons I now know as Oakley and Flannery had not even come into existence. Way back when I had no way of knowing what I was missing. Now, that, friends, is an unbelievable thought, a truly galactic moment.