working up to solid food

February 22nd, 2019

I have a friend who likes to hike the trails around here and for a while we were going together every week. She’d call in the morning and ask if I wanted to go. If I was free I’d say yes but I had to be home by three to cook dinner. Single and childless, she didn’t have those constraints, so she didn’t quite believe me.

Every day? Every day you have to cook dinner?

She made it sound like dialysis. But yes, at least five days a week for as long as my daughter was at home I cooked dinner. And I didn’t just cook dinner, but I gave considerable thought to what was lurking in the refrigerator and what I could make from it and when it would be ready. Because it had to be ready for her to eat before gymnastics, or before tutoring, or even just before she tore into the tortilla chips and ruined her dinner. And then after she ate I’d ask if she liked it and if she’d want to take the leftovers for lunch the next day. She usually said yeah, sure. I did quite a few things with my time during that span but I’d have to say that packing up leftovers for her lunch felt like my lifetime achievement, and it happened nearly every day.

Nowadays when people ask me how it’s going, they mean how is Georgia adjusting to college. I hesitate to say much, because there are highs and lows. Then they realize that the real question is how is it going for me. How’s the empty nest?

People talk a lot about the empty nest. But let me tell you, nothing really happens in the empty nest. Nothing happens every day.

So I’ve noticed how much of the last 20 years I invested in the every dailiness of parenting. Like the constant, nagging responsibility for nutritious meals, a healthy body, a growing brain, a good night’s sleep, clean towels, paired socks, and a well-made bed. Good, straight teeth. The fever, rash, earache, and sprained ankles. The doctor, the dentist, the orthodontist, the teacher, the tutor, the coach. The drop-off, pick-up, dues, forms and permission slips. These things seem like they’re ever mounting, but all along they are slipping away until nothing happens every day.

I am tired of taking leftovers, she said when she was 19.

Since she’s gone, there doesn’t seem to be a need for so much food or even to eat. For dinner, I make soups, mostly. A few weeks ago we had an overnight guest, and I made soup. By way of explanation, my husband made a joke:

We are working up to solid food.


  1. Love. “Are you retired?” “Yes, I retired in 2002, when my youngest child left home and I increased my work hours.” Until I came out of retirement to care for my mother.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — February 22, 2019 @ 10:07 am

  2. ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️??

    Comment by Sarah — February 22, 2019 @ 12:13 pm

  3. So, so moving. Thank you for this, at the exact right time (as always). In gassho, Ben Ming

    Comment by Ben Ming — February 22, 2019 @ 1:10 pm

  4. At one time I thought I had an empty nest, but I have learned, with two adult children with kids of their own, that it is never truly empty. Parenting never ends.

    Comment by Tricia — February 22, 2019 @ 4:02 pm

  5. Our empty nest turned into empty cupboards, so much empty space.
    And time.
    Nothing fills it.
    Strange this silent emptiness.
    Yes, the soup. Just the bowl, empty or full. Each time I hold it, I hear your words from here “clean your bowl”
    Maybe the bowl is a nest and the nest a bowl…

    Comment by MJ — February 23, 2019 @ 4:55 am

  6. Thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Meg — February 23, 2019 @ 7:48 am

  7. some husbands make jokes

    Comment by Bill — February 23, 2019 @ 9:26 am

  8. Comment by BK — February 25, 2019 @ 8:18 am

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