Like thousands of others in my generation, I have decided to downsize. Not my waistline, but my lifestyle.
I am just two short years away from an empty nest. Baby bird number one is 1400 miles away, in a college and a city where he is blissfully happy. Baby bird number two is chomping at the bit to fly this coop (excuse the mixed metaphor, please).
So it’s out with the five bedroom house with two-car garage and pool (you know, that hole in the ground where you throw money) and in with the two bedroom condo, no garage, but no hole in the ground either.
Once I’d made the decision I knew that I had many tasks ahead of me. Sell the house, get a mortgage, pack up the dishes. Packing was the thing that intimidated me most. How would I fit 49 years of a life, especially a life with children, into smaller quarters than I had occupied in the last 25 years? I couldn’t, of course. So along came the only solution: tossing. Getting rid of great-idea-at-the time items (e.g. the Salad Spinner), old shoes and photos of old boyfriends.
I thought it would be easy since I had achieved a zen-like maturity as I approached the big 5-0.. And, at first, it was. I gathered a big, black plastic bag, the kind you use for leaves and grass clippings. Into it I gleefully tossed those old photos, a track medal from high school and the cheap blond wig I wore as Stevie Nicks at my neighbor’s Halloween bash. Lacy handkerchiefs, an unopened sushi-making kit and half-finished Lego figures met their maker. I boxed all the clothes, at least 15 years old, that I swore would come back in fashion, dropping them at our Goodwill Store. Someone more talented than I could surely do something with that blazer, the one with shoulders like Jeff Garcia…in uniform.
I was on a roll. And then it happened. From under a heap of old blankets came my 17-year-old daughter’s soiled, naked and one-armed Raggedy Ann doll. She was beautiful. I held her close and breathed in the curly-topped toddler who had dragged that doll everywhere, including the bath tub. How could I part with it? Ditto on my son’s first school bag, the one he so proudly toted back and forth to kindergarten every day. There was still some memorable art work tucked in the front pocket.
I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. I knew that I was going to have to throw these things, and many more like them, away. I didn’t have room for them in my new digs and my children didn’t have room for them in their lives. There was the rub. As I said goodbye to “Rags” and to kindergarten I said goodbye to a long, important phase of my life. My identity as a young mother of young children is gone. I am definitely middle-aged and my kids really are young adults at 17 and 20. They don’t need me as much, and they sure don’t want me as much. It hurts. Especially the 50 part. Let’s be honest, for someone who was young and beautiful it is hard to age. Especially when a daughter is now the young and beautiful. What I’ve lost stares me in the face every day.
I am floundering in my new place in life. I feel like an adolescent, leaving behind the warm and comfortable and being thrust into a very big, complicated world. The peri-menopausal hormone swings add to that echo.
I admit it, I’m scared. The times, they are a ‘changin. Time to move, time to grow, time to find a new identity. I’d love to say that I’m taking up skydiving or writing a novel with my new-found freedom, just like I see all those Baby Boomers doing in the advertisements I am bombarded with. I’d love to say that I feel a great sense of exhilaration as I shed a skin. I’d love to say there’s a happy ending. But there’s not. There’s just muddling through. For now