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Full Nest, Empty Nest: The first day of school



Full Nest - The Night Before:

  • Run to Fiske's General Store to get school supplies. Shucks, I forgot the grade 2 list! No worries, they have it all on file.

  • Zoom to the grocery store to get something for their lunch. Stand in line #34 at the deli counter with other anxious kids and moms. #25? 26?

  • Rush home. Make a quick dinner on the fly.

  • Pick out clothes, organize backpacks

  • Bathe kids, into pajamas, tuck into bed. Ahhhh….

  • Anxious little students need glass of water. Tuck into bed.

  • Can’t sleep. Tuck into bed.

  • Read them a story. Tuck into bed. Tip-toe out.

  • Finally asleep.

  • Empty Dishwasher. Change laundry. Answer email.

  • Lay down. Can’t sleep- thinking of all the “to dos”

  • Doze, awaken, doze, awaken...

  • Pass out.



Empty Nest- The Night Before:

I decide to stop in Superette on way home from work.

Hmmmm…What shall we put on grill for dinner?

I listen to John Mayer’s “Stop this Train” on my way home. Feeling sentimental as I see the mom’s hurrying across the cross walk with their kids to Fiskes.

Right… Back to school tomorrow. I forgot.


Stop this train I wanna get off and go home again I can’t take the speed it’s moving in I know I can’t, but honestly Won’t someone stop this train?

So scared of getting older I’m only good at being young So I play the numbers game to find a way To say that life has just begun


I pour myself a glass of wine and slow roast the potatoes while waiting for my husband.

We relax in the family room, watching “Chronicle”, sipping wine, enjoying a leisurely dinner, catching up on the day.


We mention the kids and wonder how they are doing.

“Wonder if they have any plans for Labor Day?” I say, “Maybe we could see if they can come for a cook out?”


“I think the boys are busy, “ Scott adds, “and Erica is moving.”


“Guess we got to call ahead these days.” I remember. We both laugh and smile.


Our usual late night, starry walk fills us up. The moon is full, crickets serenade and a slight cool breeze hints that fall is here. We see lamps flicking on in the neighbor's window.


Restless kids, I bet.





Full Nest - The Morning of:

  • Alarm goes off at 6:00. Kids already restlessly moving around.

  • Dog needs walking.

  • Throw on some sweats, splash water on face, clip up hair.

  • Husband can’t find his shirt.

  • Kids up and getting dressed. Son limping with one shoe on as he looks for the other.

  • Into the kitchen. Quick bowls of cereal for all. Noisy sips of juice.

  • Momma… Can you tie my shoes? Please?

  • Make 3 lunches and pack into new zippered thermal lunch bags. Which kid picked the Ninja Turtle one again?

  • Oh my gosh… milk money! Where’s my change?

  • Everyone dressed? Slide brush through daughter’s hair and quickly clip with a barrette.

  • Dog lapping his water bowl, spills on floor. Paper towels.

  • Look at the clock.. “Got to leave in 5 minutes!”

  • “Have a nice day honey,” Dad offers with a quick wink and a smile.

  • Run through checklist. Have they got everything?



  • Glance at clock. Oh no… Are we gonna miss the bus?

  • “Lets go!” Leash on dog, cell phone in pocket, fumble for keys.

  • 3 kids, a dog and a mom squeeze out the door. Chattering excitement.

  • Brisk walk to corner. “Stay together now, and watch for cars.”

  • Rumble of bus in the distance. Are we there in time? See neighbor and her kids waiting there. Steaming coffee in hand.

  • Ok were on time. Won’t miss bus.

  • Whew. Slow down pace.

  • Kids skip ahead to see their friends. Mom’s converse. Cell phone camera freezes moments for Facebook.

  • Dog’s sniff. Sound of lawns mowing. Sun streaks through the trees as the yellow bus appears in distance.

  • Brakes squeal. Bus stops. Bi-fold door slides open. Smiley bus driver reassures.



  • Kids see friends and leap on to bus. 1st steps too high for littlest, require a helping hand. Our big send-off over too quick. Did I give him a kiss?

  • Tears well up in eyes. (Mom’s not kids.) Door slides closed. Each guardian closely surveying the line of windows as kids walk down aisle and plop into bus seat.

  • Smiling face up against window. Erratic waving from each side of glass.

  • A pause while bus driver asks everyone to sit down.

  • Puff of exhaust and the bus rumbles to next stop.

  • Hands in air still waving.

  • Tears still streaming.

  • Pause of quiet as bus goes out of site.


  • Turning to each other, sharing of emotion, exhaustion and laughter, as the coffee in the mugs go cold.

  • Dabbing at eyes. Glad I have my sunglasses on.

  • “Have a good day,” I mutter.

  • The dog’s tail wags in happiness and his tags jingle as I turn back home.

  • Step by step an interesting mix of emptiness and relief creeps in and more tears flow. Rattle of key in the lock. As door slides open, the dog is unleashed and I pause.

  • The quiet is deafening.

  • It seems like forever till you will be at the bus stop again.



Empty Nest - The Morning of:

Six o'clock alarm dings. I hit snooze and decide to sleep a little longer.

Stretching, I slip on my robe and greet the kitties meowing for their breakfast.


On way up the stairs , I glance toward the back windows and see the preschool photos of my kids lined up on the end table. They are among my favorite. Black and white, sort of vintage in feel, capturing my children at their sweet innocence. I reach for the middle silver frame and pull my son Mark’s picture up and need to remove my glasses to really take a look. My eyes feel wet as I remember his sweet voice, rolling eyes when he was embarrassed and tender heart.


Memories of the first day of school flood back. I smile as I recall following Jared’s bus to school that first day of kindergarten. Not because I needed to, but because it was so hard to see him go. My first son, no longer a baby, but joyfully stepping up on the bus with a backpack bigger than he was. Not looking back, only forward.


Jared's first day of Kindergarten


A mixture of embarrassment and anxiety faded as I arrived at his school and see several other mothers who have followed the bus too. All of us needing reassurance that our children really did get to kindergarten.


We crouch stealthily behind our cars, large vintage video cameras rolling. I see Miss Parker greet the kids at the bus. Jared and the other kids follow her like sheep after a shepherd down the sidewalk and into the school, disappearing into the hallway. I wipe the tears from my eyes and head home - 1:00pm seems days away. I miss my sweet boy.


Jared is nearly 38 now… Where has the time gone? A grown man with a home, a wife, three daughters and a dog of his own. Once in a while, I surprise him and put one hand on each side of his scruffy face and see just for a moment the blue eyes of my little Jared, in his teddy bear over-alls just wanting a hug and kiss.


Once in a while when it’s good It’ll feel like it should And they’re all still around And you’re still safe and sound And you don’t miss a thing ‘til you cry When you’re driving away in the dark



My precious grown up son, Jared and I


The warmth of my mug invites a sip and I glance out the kitchen window to see the yellow bus squeal to a stop. Eager children leap on the bus after quick kisses. Mothers and fathers search the windows for a glance at their child as it pulls away. Hands outstretched, erratically waving goodbye. Life has come full circle. I miss those days. Oh… to go back for a moment and relive those those crazy, hectic, precious mornings.


Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand I tried my hand John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train.


Enjoy "Stop this Train" by John Mayer and have a good cry at:


:) Cathy


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