KJ Hannah Greenberg

Empty Nest

Life’s passages are not simply populated by kaleidoscopes or wild, one-horned, kosher beasts. Whereas last week’s parsha, Tetzaveh, references the Kohen Gadol’s garments as woven from threads of purple, turquoise/blue, and red, and the prior week’s parsha, Terumah, indicates that among the hides used in the Mishkan, were those of the tachash, a being reputed to be (like) a unicorn, we know that the rainbow-colored animal’s existence was fleeting.

Hashem’s plan includes the chronological arrangement of events. He creates plants and animals to suit His temporal scheme. Since His vision is infinite, and ours is not, we can’t possibly comprehend why certain experiences occur when they do or why they cease to operate thereafter.

Our finite understanding leaves us baffled. No matter how seemingly wonderful or challenging, our goings-on are not of our own construction, thus never wholly graspable. For example, less than a week ago, my youngest chickadee “flew the nest.”

Hubby’s delighted with this transformation. He now looks at me almost as concupiscently as he did when we were a new, eighteen year-old, couple. Having all of our apartment to ourselves agrees with him. Furthermore, he talks about us having more chores and fewer grocery bills. Everything considered, my husband’s convinced that we’ll adjust.

He addends that the two of us can respond, without difficulty, to the task spillage left behind by our most recently nested adult child. My spouse practically dances when he offers that our reduced food costs (Hubs claims our youngest ate as much as himself and me, put together) will be easily integrated into our budget.

My partner’s claims are reasonable. We lived alone before we had kids. We can live well, alone, again, now that the  kids are absent.

Nonetheless, I respond to his salvos with half smiles. While I’m glad that we suddenly have enough privacy for my man’s many articulated amorous intentions (these days, he courts me in our respective offices, in our kitchen, and in our storage space), I miss our children. Computer Cowboy’s been hooting, but I’ve been crying.

Switching to being a parents whose offspring have grown up (mostly) and left home (entirely) is my loss. Writing is nice. Publishing is rewarding. Scaring, I mean educating, college students is joyful. Yet, raising my children was the best of my life’s professions.

Sure, it’s fun to flirt with the love of my life in every room of our house. Sure, it’s convenient to spend less money on household needs. Be that as it may, the muddy footprints, unwashed laundry, kitchen sink piled high with unattended dishes, and more, were, for a very long time, the centerpiece of my life.

Indisputably, I’m glad our baby is trying new things and building his self-confidence. It’s not his problem that for three plus decades, my identity was directly tied to nurturing him, his brother and his sisters. First one, then another, then a third, and, now, the fourth, as is appropriate, “took flight.”

Granted, our sons and daughters never really belonged to us—they were always on loan. They always belonged to their other parent, G-d. Even when they’re physically far (yes, for this “Jewish Mother” and for many mothers like me, that they live anywhere from half of an hour to two hours away from their parents is their living FAR), The Aibishter remains still with them.

As it should be, the more that our kids mature, the less that they require certain types of input from Mom and Dad. Sure, they still call us with health, relationship, and career crises and with more mundane questions, including queries about how much oatmeal I use when making meatloaf (none) or about how often plants ought to be watered (feel the soil for guidance). All the same, those big ones have married, parented, worked, and set up dwellings without needing much from me or Hubs.

I need to be more grateful, b’ayin tova, that my little ones have become big ones, that they lived to reach the age of independence (I’ve lost multiple pregnancies as have some of my friends. Others of my friends have children who are handicapped or had children who died prematurely) and that, b’ayin tova,  I’ve merited to reach an age to witness that progression. Also, I need to be grateful that all of my boys and all of my girls live “nearby,” b’ayin tova (many of my pals have kids living thousands of miles away, i.e., in other countries.)

It would suit me to feel indebted, too, that Hubby’s and my mindful parenting helped our children grow into adults possessed of good middot, b’ayin tova,. We might not see our dears as often as we’d like, but we feel comforted knowing that our fostering gave them proper comportment plus vital life tools.

Just as the tachash was a fleeting entity, so, too, was our offsprings’ childhoods. It’s best to  appreciate, not mourn, changes decreed in Heaven. We ought to embrace life’s revolving chapters. After all, I truly want my children to be independent, self-assured adults.

It’s just that I like prismatic light, too.

About the Author
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs. Thereafter, her writing has been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than forty books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.
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