Sunday, January 1, 2012


It was Sydney’s day to return to college after a two and a half week vacation here at home. She’d spent part of her New Year’s Eve packing her things. As though delaying the inevitable, I slept later than I had all vacation. Even the puppy cooperated and did not come to wake me until after 9:00am. After deciding that her father would take her back, I hopped in the shower and got dressed. I figured if they wanted me to come along, I’d be ready. But no, within the hour, she and her Dad would be on their way by themselves. She loaded the car and gathered some groceries that she could take back with her. And I began cleaning the countertops.

I cleaned the counter then moved the kitchen-aide mixer to the island. I scrubbed the appliance, cleaning every inch that had been neglected during the baking of Christmas cookies over the past two weeks. I suddenly needed to carry out the task more meticulously and persistently than usual. As I worked, Sydney continued to lug items to the car. I continued to clean. I took time out to hug her goodbye and to pose for a picture or two, told her to “be good”, and then she was gone. I returned to my mixer and finished cleaning it. Then I tackled the two drawers in the kitchen island. Emptying each and organizing the spatulas and measuring cups, I focused on the job at hand.

When the drawers were done I prepared a late lunch for Emma and Paul. Then I picked over the roasted chicken and began making soup. I ran to the store briefly to get milk, but returned to fold two baskets of clothes and washed some dishes. Once my husband arrived home and I knew all was well, I sank into my recliner. I read several magazines and watched some tv. I began to breathe more deeply and was able to relax.

There is something that kicks in with me when I know my daughter is in transition. I grow restless and I try to mask my anxiety with chores and cooking. It’s similar to the pregnancy instinct of "nesting", described as “an uncontrollable urge to clean one's house brought on by a desire to prepare a nest for the new baby, to tie up loose ends of old projects and to organize your world” ( According to research, it is a primal instinct. Birds make their nests, mothers-to-be begin cleaning their houses, fueled by unusual bursts of energy. I suppose the act of nesting allows for some semblance of control as she prepares for the upcoming arrival.

I am not quite sure why a mother of a young woman on her way back to college, the mother of a girl three weeks shy of her 20th birthday, should partake in this routine. She’d been here for two and a half weeks already. We’d had a beautiful time together as a family but she was now on her way back to school. Why clean now? Perhaps it’s only natural. Perhaps I simply want to ensure that the nest will be comfortable enough for my baby bird to fly home to the next time the wind blows her this way.

1 comment:

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