June 10, 2012

Remodeling the Empty Nest

When we moved into our first house a month before our son was born, the baby’s room was empty, except for the hideous blue wallpaper that featured giant scary-looking clowns. My father and husband built a crib from a kit.  There were a handful of screws left after the eight hours of assembly. This worried me a little.

We filled the room with shower gifts and family heirlooms; an over sized stuffed Peter Rabbit, a dresser with a remarkable removable changing mat on the top, a blue and white quilt made by my great-grandmother Long and an oak rocking chair.

How our son’s things multiplied and changed the landscape of the house!

Twenty-two years and two houses later, the baby is a man. He no longer lives with us, and we are slowly reversing the process with his possessions.

This summer we’re tackling the basement.  We don’t need a playroom anymore, and it has become a storage room.  One room is now my husband’s office.  The carpeting, worn from too many children running in and out, has been replaced.   The basketball hoop that was right outside the door is gone, new grass planted.

The noisy refrigerator that kept cold drinks for hot boys on a summer’s day has been moved to the storage area. Where my husband had a desk and a few books in this room holds a full-fledged office that bears no resemblance to the crossroads it once was, the crossroads between lively, dripping wet children and the bathroom.  

With the pristine new carpet came paint, a brick red for the brick wall and a sedate tan for the rest.  We moved his over sized chair to this peaceful retreat, part man cave, part set of “Antiques Road Show.”

From the chair he has a view of the neighbor’s lake, the occasional white-tailed deer and all the glorious native birds that come calling.

Our son’s room upstairs remains much as it was, a repository for Boy Scout things, flags of the world, a   closet full of silk-screened shirts from childhood activities.  It is now a great place to keep the laundry.

Our son’s digs have evolved, from dormitory to the squalor of a college basement apartment and now a “real” apartment. We keep teasing him that he could use an air hockey table; it’s big and bulky and takes up a lot of space in our basement. It would make a lovely dining room table for him.

He gathers.  We cast off.  It’s all part of the process.  My late mother was never as happy as when I finally took the last of my things from their house.  The final item that stayed with them until they moved into retirement housing was my wedding dress.  Mom behaved as if the dress was toxic waste from a nuclear dump.  She wanted the space in the guest room closet where the giant box held my white lace dress.  Now it takes up space in my closet.

Our son’s Legos, Lincoln Logs and metal trucks wait for him in our basement.  If I look closely, I think I can see a little radioactive glow.  © 2012 The Raven Lunatic by Amy Abbott.  Amy Abbott is an Indiana writer with attitude.  She likes to hear from readers at amy@amyabbottwrites.com.