I was in the supermarket yesterday. It was mid-day and I went with a small list of items scribbled on a torn piece of paper. My list included things like napkins, coffee creamer, hand soap, strawberries, bananas and Snapple diet iced tea. As I was walking the aisles I did something I rarely do, I noticed my fellow shoppers. Some of the ladies were 10 years older than me. A few wore exercise outfits, others wore walking shorts, and still others wore rayon blouses and knit pants – what older ladies run errands in, I suppose. And, then I pondered what my own future grocery store experiences would soon be like.
My Grocery Cart Will Soon Be Much Lighter
In just under a month, I will become an empty-nester. My daughter, 21, is entering her senior year of an out-of-state university, and my 18-year-old son, my baby, is also going to an out-of-state university. Each of them will be an airplane ride away.
Even though I have worked since they were born, and have enjoyed a consistent and thriving writing career, my first focus was always my family. I have always worked at home and am the self-appointed grocery shopper in my household. I actually love food shopping. It’s been a source of happiness to me. I love strolling the aisles looking for foods that my daughter, son and husband would enjoy. Whether it’s been lunchbox treats, ingredients for new crock-pot recipes, or picking that perfect package of blueberries, there is love in every item that scans over the register.
In a very short time, the total of my household will go from 4 to 2. First it went from 4 to 3, when my sweet daughter started college. Now that my son will soon depart, my heart hurts knowing that my grocery cart will be much lighter.
As most moms know a teenage boy is always hungry. My son, a baseball player, would eat from the minute he returned home. It didn’t matter if it was a weekday or weekend. And, his friends always have big appetites too! My job is making sure the fridge, freezer and pantry are stocked with his and their favorites. And, when my daughter is home for a visit, her vegetarian and healthy slant is something I enjoy shopping for as well.
I’m back at the market and I’m making my way up the packaged crackers aisle. Both of my children adore Goldfish crackers. A feeling of sadness fills my stomach. I know that there are no more school lunches to pack, and I won’t hear the garage door open after school. I don’t need to be prepared to make mac and cheese for them and I know that pizza bagels don’t need to be in the freezer all the time.
Older acquaintances have told me that the best years are ahead for my husband and me. I have two close friends with twins who became empty-nesters last year. They launched both kids at once, and they said they got into a pattern of work and freedom they have accepted and enjoyed. Other friends, like me, have had staggered send-offs. They told me that when the second or last child departs, it’s hard. The change can be difficult. I know the transition will be tough for me, but I am trying to accept the inevitable.
It’s funny what each parent will miss the most. For me, it will be the after-school and after-practice and after-game chats, the morning smiles, and the bold and loving “Mom” I hear them calling from throughout the house. I must admit my visits to the grocery store to buy their favorites will be among my biggest losses. I love when they look for their favorites in the pantry or refrigerator and they say “Thanks, Mom.” What sweeter words could there be?
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Erica Lamberg, a professional writer, is based in suburban Philadelphia. Married and the mom of two college-aged children, she writes for news outlets including NBC News, Gannett, Parents Magazine and Oprah Magazine.