Empty Nest

The blonde plywood triangular space is glowing with golden sunlight. It is freezing cold and hollow. It has an eerie echo, now that it is freed from its long-term job of aiding and abetting this family’s life. 

Euphoria. That is the feeling I get from surveying this empty attic. 

That sprawling area atop our home took up a tremendous amount of mental storage space in my head. And just like a computer, with not one byte left, I needed this new free space to think and to breathe.

The attic held momentos, memorabilia, and memories. It held nods to our own youth and to our children’s childhood. There was art, from crayoned papers to gallery pieces, wrapped carefully in butcher paper. There were also awards and our children’s umbilical cords. Yes. umbilical cords. And every single lost tooth was up there, held in safekeeping, along with three pairs of some pretty dope hot pink crutches. 

There was more luggage than could ever be used in a lifetime, along with my petrified wedding dress, a stuffed purple crinoline prom dress and trunks of junk from my high school and college days. There were trains from Rob’s youth and boxes of wedding memorabilia and a case of champagne from that day of our union in August 1997.

There were also boxes upon boxes of old files and paperwork piled high beside way too many bags of bedding, much of which came from a summer house in Block Island we had sold in 2009. And there were towers of boxes of old Christmas cards. And by that, I mean: Every. Single. Card. Our. Family. Had. Ever. Received. 

And each child had their own tower of boxes, about 15 or so for each child. All their celebrated moments were there, from newborn footprints at their birth moving right up through elementary school graduation and tapering off toward the end of high school.

Shamefully, I write this. I admit to all the piles of proof of my inability to let things go. Being free of the past is a powerful and wonderful trait that if taught, is a Godsend. 

But sadly I never learned it.

So instead, there was a section up there entitled “Memorabilia” that included giant bags of Webkinz, Power Rangers, and Pokeman cards. There were countless American Girl Dolls and their outfits. Every single Halloween costume ever worn by any family member was neatly folded, encased in clear plastic. And “Christmas Decor” had its own aisle, of course.

Yes, this attic of mine had aisles. And my favorite aisle was what I referred to as “Buy Buy Baby” complete with cribs, bassinets, changing tables, strollers and every size created in baby and toddler clothing. All of this, in spite of our children now being 18, 22 and 23 years old.

But today, the attic is empty and that aisle is gone. And the small leg of the broken white wicker changing table is sticking out of the large dumpster in the driveway. It looks like a small white flag being waved in this battle to unravel so many celebrated and documented milestones and memories made by one single suburban family.

In the midst of so much purging those last few harried days, I did manage to rescue a few small treasures, like the “Boppy,” a pillow I used to rest each of my three babies on while nursing them, and a small stroller, to break out when I become a grandma.

I guess my “just in case” ways were handed down to me by my own mother and grandmother and will never really leave me. This saving, storing, “hold on to it for Pete’s sake, you never know!” mentality is an attribute that I both treasure and curse.

But letting go of that attic of childhood treasures means releasing my hold on the past. And since there is no more attic in my future, I am free. Or, so they say.

Lost. That is the feeling I get from surveying this empty attic.

The children around whom this attic was filled are leaving the nest. And this nest is being sold so that a new family can fill it with their own children’s treasures and family memories. 

Grief. That is the feeling I get from surveying this empty attic.