Fleeting moments surround the empty nest

Fleeting moments surround the empty nest

This past weekend was Lollapalooza, which has become a tradition. Two years ago, my daughter and I, along with her friend, made our first trip together to Chicago for the acclaimed music festival. My daughter’s sweet sixteen present was four-day passes, round-trip airfare, and hotel accommodations (and a chaperone) for her and her friend.  Last summer they had jobs to pay (most) of their own way and talked me into getting the hotel again (thankfully, I had points to use).

This year, they had a free Airbnb, 30 minutes from downtown – our new apartment! They added two more friends to the mix and drove from New Jersey. Just as I was about all unpacked and starting to feel somewhat settled here, four teenagers descended onto my new home – while I was on a short business trip for my new job (part-time as Chicago Metro Regional Director with Let Me Run). I came home to chaos and I was so happy to see them.

One of the things I didn’t realize I’d miss so much when I wrote my list of things I would miss about New Jersey, was these kids. Our house felt, at times, like “headquarters” – the meeting place before going on to some bigger plans. I embraced the role of chauffeur. I was always willing to drive the kids anywhere at any time. And even when they started driving themselves, they still often met up at our house.  Sometimes our house was just the cozy living room in which to watch a movie.

I knew moving would change a lot of things, but we were surrounded by change that was going to happen no matter where we lived. I welcomed them with open arms last week and put up with their mess knowing that when the weekend was over, they’d be off and at college in four different states in a few short weeks. The days of kids popping in and hanging out, making s’mores by the firepit, and waking to wonder who slept on the couch last night, were gone.

Even the dog will miss having these kids around.

I felt such a wave of sadness when I walked back into my empty, quiet, messy apartment yesterday morning after seeing them drive away. Empty-nesting, I realize is about mourning the passage of time as much as it’s about missing the kids. As teens and young adults, we are on the fast track, constantly looking forward to what lies ahead, and probably taking for granted the fleeting moments we will come back to in our minds, over and over again longingly, decades later.

As older adults we are all too aware of time slipping away and the milestones that mark a life now forever changed – even as we embrace opportunities and new adventures, and the revised roles we get to play. I had a conversation with my brother while I was in Ireland about this. We agreed we missed our children as they were when they were small. We talked about times when we felt too tired to give them the attention they wanted and how we were glad we did it anyway; that we would give anything to be asked to give that time now.

I got tickets to the White Sox-Yankees game on Monday night to just hold onto the kids for a little while longer. I have no doubt that they are already planning Lollapalooza Weekend 2019. And until then, I will miss them…I will always miss the children they used to be.

The last night in Chicago for these kids…this trip. 
A shop teacher’s legacy

A shop teacher’s legacy

It was when I was running every street in my little New Jersey town last summer that I began to notice the Adirondack chairs. I just figured they were a popular item that looked nice on residents’ front porches or lawns. After all, I had two plastic ones I purchased at Home Depot myself. I did estimate that the ones I was noticing were wood and a much higher quality, however.

One day after returning from one of those runs, I found an email from George Chrisafis, the high school shop teacher, telling me that my daughter’s Adirondack chair was at the school and needed to be picked up. Hmmmm. I didn’t even know she had made a chair in shop class (she never tells me anything). Although…a glimmer of a memory from Back-to-School Night? Perhaps.

The next class. Ramsey, New Jersey. June 2018.

I finally got over there in August to get it before the new school year was to begin and it would have to be discarded to make room for the next class. It wasn’t finished (how she passed the class, I’ll never know). The arms still needed to be attached and three more slats needed to be added to the front of the seat. I took it home and there it sat – unfinished – on the back deck the rest of the summer. It was moved to the garage with the rest of the patio furniture by November. Still unfinished.

The fall was election time and my volunteer role with a local political campaign had me knocking on doors all over town. I came face-to-face with 100s of these Adirondack chairs. Some were brightly colored. All were proudly displayed. You could almost accurately guess how many children had passed through the high school from any given household by the number of Adirondack chairs a home had. I vowed that one way or another we’d finish ours!

When spring arrived the patio furniture came back out. Finishing the chair was put on my to-do list along with all of the other things I needed to accomplish before our move. We (and I exaggerate a bit here) finished the chair and painted it a dark green to match the trim on our beloved home. When we moved last month, all the patio furniture was left for the new owners, except for our special Adirondack chair. It will be a cherished reminder of our time in our little New Jersey town, a symbol of the mother-daughter team work that had carried us through the last four years, and Mr. Chrisafis’ legacy like all the other Adirondack chairs sprinkled around town – and maybe around the country.

A new home. Vernon Hills, Illinois. July 2018.
Twelve things I will miss about New Jersey

Twelve things I will miss about New Jersey

High School Graduation is now behind us! I am so proud of my girl for all that she has achieved here and for setting herself up right for what’s to come. The movers are on their way. Today is the day I move out of my house. It is going to be bitter sweet closing the door for the last time this week. There will certainly be a lot of things I’m going to miss about life in New Jersey.

A gorgeous setting for the high school’s 110th Commencement ceremony.

A friend posted on FaceBook recently that he was working on his column and asked that we contribute “things we love about the Garden State.” There were a lot of the usual suspects like Springsteen, the Shore, Taylor Ham (or pork roll?), and proximity to New York City (or Philadelphia, depending on who was contributing).  There were debates around whether or not pumping one’s own gas is a benefit or a curse, or whether not having to pay sales tax on food and clothing balanced out the high property taxes.

Sunrise on the Hudson. Palisades Interstate Park. Englewood, New Jersey.

My boyfriend (who was a transplant from New Jersey before moving to Chicago almost 25 years ago) said the things I will miss most about Jersey will be (real) pizza, Chinese food, and spring.  My daughter thinks for her it will be good bagels. I think I will miss not having to pump my own gas only in the winter. I’m renting, so I can’t give an assessment on property taxes; but I can tell you that I got a really nice 2-bedroom apartment in a great residential neighborhood in the city for considerably less than New York City rents. And I’ve always wanted to live in a city.

Summer hike with Enzo. Ramapo County Reservation. Mahwah, New Jersey.

So quick list of things I will miss about (specifically Bergen County) New Jersey that pop into my head…

  1. Proximity to New York City and the countless wonderful things it has to offer like Broadway and Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, Central Park, the High Line, and the Brooklyn Bridge
  2. An hour drive north to a ski resort; an hour south to a beach resort
  3. Sunday driving (and those from Bergen County know what I’m talking about here)
  4. Accessibility to several major cities from Boston to D.C.
  5. The Atlantic Ocean, especially along the beach in Montauk (my happy place) and the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore
  6. Seeing the New York City skyline on the horizon from numerous high places just minutes away
  7. Running the hills of Palisades in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge or not having to even leave town to find a hill to run
  8. Hiking trails that lead to the top of high mountains
  9. Running races and knowing the courses – and the competition!
  10. Being relatively close to the final resting places of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles
  11. Countless friends and the memories of life here for the last 51 years
  12. And finally, the thing I will really miss about New Jersey – which also happens to be the same thing that gave me incentive to leave – is familiarity.
Seen on many, many runs. Saddle River County Park. Paramus, New Jersey.

Back in May, I talked about my life currently as so familiar that it was one I could “lead with my eyes closed.” The part of me that likes to be comfortable, also likes the fact that around here, I can steer my way out of any traffic jam without relying on Waze. I know the history and the stories, about our towns and businesses, and people. I’ve met my elected officials, I understand the politics and I always run into people I know everywhere I go.  When people talk about someone in a New Jersey diner, I’m that person in the booth behind them who knows who they’re talking about…and yeah, add “diners” to the list. 🙂


New Jersey Meadowlands. Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

That all makes life here very comfortable, but it can make it boring, too. I am also someone who likes a challenge (and if I’m honest with myself, I will admit that I’m in a little bit of a rut here recently). So off I go to be challenged. This kid who sometimes suffers from separation anxiety is armed with the security of friendships maintained on FaceBook and off to a whole a new adventure. An education awaits. I’ll find you again as soon as I get to Illinois (don’t leave me).

My next goal

My next goal

A few things came together last week which quickly launched me into a plan to accomplish my next goal. That goal is to have two cars, two pets, two people and the contents of a four-bedroom house packed up and transported to Illinois before the end of the summer. And no, I’m not running there. Although that actually seems less daunting. Read more

Spring Break

Spring Break

This is spring break week here, so I’m going to make this brief so I can get back to trying to spend some quality time with my kid. Since she started driving a year ago – and turns 18 later this week – I have to take what time I’m given. Read more