Eagles return to the same nest year after year–a steadfast marriage of life long partners and domicile that is both touching and practical. Generations of offspring are raised in the same tree, hatched upon the same branches lined with the same dirt and down and moss and foliage, then the soiled lining removed by the parents after the fledglings fly. After being washed clean in the winter rains, the parents return in the spring to replace the soft bedding for the next crop of eggs. It is a cycle of comfort, of familiarity, and of commitment.
Many see an empty nest as sad and forlorn–a symbol of what was and is no longer. Others see it as the gateway to freedom from responsibility and the daily cares of parenting worries. I’m not so sure it is either.
Our children left us to fend for ourselves last August. It was a distinct adjustment, knocking about in this empty nest without the usual crowd of flying feathers, hungry mouths and busy bathrooms. When they recently came home for a few weeks at Christmas, it was a joyful reunion with great conversations, singing and music, wonderful meals and memories. It felt like it always had.
As of today, the nest has emptied again–the house quiet, the refrigerator bare, the bathrooms always available with enough hot water, the calendar suddenly unfilled. The adjustment again.
I will set to work cleaning, and laundering, and putting away what will be pulled out again in four to five months as they flock home briefly once again. I know just how to line the nest, making it welcome and familiar to my family who are off to make their own nests elsewhere. It is important that this home be here for them to land when they need to, to refresh, to relax and to belong and be loved.
There is nothing empty about it. It is lined with comfort, is chock full of memories, and sits ready with unlimited potential for future gatherings.
And most of all, we’re still here, my husband and I. There is absolutely nothing empty about that.