Sunday, January 1, 2012
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” (parentingweekly.com). 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.