No joke. I truly thought when my children left the nest I’d fly away, too. If I didn’t make it as far as Italy or Ecuador, I’d migrate south to Seagrove or west to Big Sur. I’d park my vintage camper (circa 1959) and chase seagulls, collect shells, and make a mermaid my muse. I’d bake pies like Sylvia Plath and burn rubber if I met a Ted Hughes. I’d brunch with friends every Sunday, do book tours, and sell shirts at book fests from Austin to Boston.
My baby moved to college last August. I’m still on Jenry Court. It seems that while the gypsy- in- me has fantasized for years about holding up a sign on the Church Street bridge that reads, “WILL WORK FOR TRAVEL,” the mommy- in- me isn’t going anywhere. Not for now anyway. Maybe when my kids are out of college and in careers they love. Maybe when I’m over teaching. Maybe not.
We moved to this old house when Cole was three months old, and he’ll be twenty March 8th. Outside my bedroom window, the magnolia tree, leathery leaves rustling, recollects when my boy fell from a high limb, chipping the growth plate in his ankle. The dogwood creaks in the winter wind, bare arms spread protectively over the resting place of Annie, our golden girl three years gone. The swing that held Taylor and Precious, her Persian, sways silently, patiently waiting for the little girl to return.
And she does. Running ahead of her to my front door are Lindsey and Laila, the four and seven year-olds she loves like her own, my precious “grandgirls.” They can’t wait to climb all over Cole, a 6’4” Gentle Giant come home from college, and love on Ella, my late-in-life child.
I had been on dog rescue lists for about a year, and my friends, Emily and Kim, had Facebooked me pictures of dogs in need of homes, but I wasn’t sure I could handle loving and losing again. Likewise, since my niece, Abby, started volunteering at the Bowling Green Humane Society, she’d texted photos of puppies. I wasn’t sure if this time I’d go for a petite poofy pooch—a cuddly couch cohort–or another Golden Retriever—a hiking companion with a watchdog bark. As a Romantic, I just knew I’d know it’s time when I saw The One.
When Abby sent a picture of a beautiful 4- month- old yellow lab with the softest fur, velvet ears, soulful eyes, and sweet face, I knew she was my baby. The nesting I did last year– the unexplainable energy to grow a garden, paint walls, and make cupcakes pretty- as- Pinterest–all makes sense now. I knew I was cooking like Paula Deen to lure my kids home, but I didn’t realize I was feathering my nest for new chicks. The angst I felt a year ago, the need to make a move since Taylor and Cole were moving on, settled down and not because I settled. Though I planned to heed the lead of my globe-trotting friend, Rawsam, and downsize to a single box of possessions, freeing me to fly, I found myself filling a sole box…for Goodwill. Becoming a mom again didn’t ground me. It was grounding.
Like a decade ago when I stockpiled frozen casseroles and decorated nurseries with Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh, I’m now filling Hello Kitty totes with crayons and coloring books and a dress-up trunk with feathered boas, head pieces, and old evening gowns. I’d worn those formals out-on-the-town, then Taylor wore them trick or treating, and last New Year’s Eve, Lindsey and Laila wore them too.
Bringing in 2013 was wild. Cole, Taylor, Chris, the girls, the pets and I gathered at my house for a sleepover. We popped popcorn, ate candy, and watched television till midnight—just like I’d done with my grandparents, sister, and cousins. The girls had never stayed up so late. Laila lined up Taylor’s dolls as we watched Marley and Me (sans the sad part). We laughed at how much Baby Marley looked like Baby Ella. Then I didn’t laugh at how much they are alike.
As the ball dropped on Times Square, Lindsey twirled around the room in my satin formal, saying she was at a “beautiful ball.” Then she squealed—not because she had lost her glass slipper, but because Ella had pooped on her dance floor. Since some parts of 2012 had been poopy, we said all the more reason to look forward to an even better 2013. I insist the poop fell before the ball, and I’m sticking to it.
As for Ella, the adventure continues. She licks me awake every morning and still tries to jump like a jackrabbit to my chest, on the couch and sometimes on the cat despite doctor’s orders and my commands not to. While I was at work, Houdini bent the kennel with her nose, escaped, and chewed my favorite shoes. Pulling fast ones, she switched toys and rawhides to chew her leash and the foot of my antique sofa. Though I puppy-proofed the bathroom, she apparently climbed on the toilet seat, yanked the Venetian blinds from the top of the window to the window seal, and chewed them like bubble gum. When I came home, she limped to see me as Cole did when he fell from the tree. Ella fractured her tibia crest near her growth plate, scaring me to death and sending the vet on a vacation. I wasn’t invited. But as a friend with four golden retrievers said, I’ve invested in a companion and Europe will be there. My mom, sis and daughter rallied around the patient, offering to sit with her if needed. She’s family, and I couldn’t love her more.
Guess I’ve come full circle. With a twist. Keeping with tradition, I might take Ella to Florida this spring since Cole went there after his foot fracture—his cast covered in plastic. Maybe the whole gang will go. Or one day we may pull that camper to Cali, Ella riding shotgun, my kids and their families following behind. Home is where the heart is. I hope mine always beats with kids, chaos, and puppy love.