U-turns at the halfway house

We are now one child away from having an empty nest – only it’s not so much a nest. More like a temporary storage facility. If the imaginary volcano in our backyard were to erupt and spew hot ash over our lot in life, future archeologists would conclude that there were 3.89 people living in this house. They’d also wonder what kind of crazy people would let their cats outnumber them.

Our eldest has been out of the house for several years. In fact, Emily no longer has a room here to call her own. Just before she left for CEGEP, we were six people living in a four-bedroom house, so naturally, when she left, the youngest quickly filled the void. Nature hates a vacuum, almost as much as siblings hate a shared closet.

The middle two, however, have left in stages, studying away from home but living here either full-time or at least long enough to claim territory, a claim they establish by leaving balled up Kleenex on their bedroom floors. They can make basketball jump shots but they can’t hit a garbage can five feet away.

About the apostrophe -- what, were the sign makers drunk?

About the apostrophe — what, were the sign makers drunk?

This past spring, though, Katie and James signed a lease on an apartment in Lennoxville, where they are both attending school this fall. The apartment is located in the so-called “student ghetto,” although I see the town is attempting to rebrand the area as the “student village.” They’ve installed a classy sign on the corner along with some fancy landscaping. All the corner is missing is a student passed out at 4 a.m. and, voila!, brand established. As they say, it takes a village to burn a couch.

Our children signed their lease in May, even though school didn’t start until the fall. This resulted in them having what amounted to two homes this past summer: ours for eating and laundry, theirs for accumulating beer bottles.

But since August, the two have been in Lennoxville more or less full time. The most immediate impact we’ve noticed is a significant reduction in our food budget. It’s nice to once again have leftovers that make it past 10:00 p.m.

There is also less of their clutter. Sort of. Relics remain. It’s a kind of trickle-down theory; slowly their possessions are trickling down to Lennoxville.

For example, there’s this blender on our kitchen counter. On Monday, James ignored my suggestion that he take it that afternoon in our latest load to Lennoxville. It’s his blender, after all. We gave it to him so he could make smoothies or concoct potions or liquefy his food in case he can’t get the multiple meals, snacks and snack-meals into his belly quickly enough. And yet, here it remains.

It’ll get there eventually, I suppose, along with the posters and trophies and balled up socks here and dirty laundry stashed behind a door there – artifacts of the teenage epoch.

It’s good they’ve moved on, for them and for us. We were beginning to feel like a halfway house. Besides, children in their fresh 20s do things that parents don’t need or want to know, and blissful ignorance is much more difficult when puffy eyes the next morning tell all about the night before.

Thankfully, we’re still close enough to attend James’s basketball games or watch Katie further destroy her knees with rugby or fill up their fridge with groceries, which, you know, so much for reducing our food budget…

After all, it’s possible that very soon they’ll be living even further away, running their own lives, cluttering up their own homes. Next thing you know, they won’t need us at all.

The other day, James left our house for work, zipping up the autoroute for Ayer’s Cliff. About five minutes later, the phone rang. “Can you bring me my dress shoes? I’m just past the flashing light and there’s nowhere to turn around.”

He was running late, so I grabbed the shoes and rushed after him until I saw his flashers along the side of the road. I pulled over and handed off the shoes. “Thanks,” he said, smiling sheepishly, and drove on. I followed for a few hundred metres and then, checking for cops, made an illegal emergency-vehicles-only U-turn across the median. I headed back to our almost empty nest where the blender can remain for as long as it wants.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to U-turns at the halfway house

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    This feels fresh, like balled-up Kleenex before it stiffens. “Natures hates a vacuum” (almost as much as kids do, at least getting behind one). I like the slice of life quality to this a lot. And your very warped stained glass eyes.

  2. Charles says:

    I’m on the opposite side of this storage facility, seeing as though I tried to move out. (unsuccessfully. Hey, don’t laugh!) Wishing you and your family the best, this time of life can be one mess of emotions!

    On another note, I met a nice couple from Canada recently. I got to babysit for them and they were to be back in “Aboot six hours.” Honest to God, the husband said, “Aboot six hours.”

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    I have one who left for college a few weeks ago (though he’s still close by) and one who has three more years left at home. It would be strange to go through this four times like you will! I think it’s cool that your kids leased an apartment together (at least that’s how I interpreted it?). With family as a roommate, you know what you’re getting. 🙂

  4. ksbeth says:

    teetering on the bittersweet edge of the empty nest cliff and hanging on by a blender.

  5. “Nature hates a vacuum…” and cats hate an empty newell post.

  6. Liz says:

    Once again, you draw ’em in with the jokes and then go for the sentimental punch to the gut. Well done, sir.

  7. Tez says:

    My take on kids leaving home was similar to the popular fridge magnet that said something like, “I kid-proofed the house but they keep finding ways to get back inside!” Couldn’t wait for them to go, then couldn’t wait for them to come home again. Parents = nuts. 🙂

  8. Paul says:

    Ha! Hilarious and yet so poignant, not bad for someone who lives so far out that you can always U-turn (or commit any one of a list of felonies) because there’s never any other vehicles in sight (that’s for the Ontario comment – take that you wascally wabbit!). I read the link to the couch burning rituals – too funny Ross. I am concerned though because, as you know Quebec has banned any public displays of religion and your kids could be accused of that with the couch burning ritual. I hope you took away all their cross pendants as well – they are fine around home but flaunting them on the street -just trouble my friend, sure to draw the attention of the religion police. Ha! You know when I lived in the Maritimes, Newfoundland was a great target for jokes -now that I am in Ontario it is a good feeling to have Quebec aboot which to make fun. After all they erected a sign which is at least 10 feet high and termed it a colossus (from the Record clipping). Bwahaha! We have rabbits bigger than that here in Ontario.

    Awesome post Ross – you’re back in fine form from your travelogue mode (and I personally liked that mode too).

  9. Dina Honour says:

    My husband and I always joke that we are counting down the days until the boys are 18. We dream of nice furniture and floors clear of Lego. But as they are getting older, I’m actually starting to panic that someday they are actually going to leave. And well…what the hell? You do all this work and if you do it well, they leave. That kind of sucks. I am beyond impressed that your siblings are sharing an apartment. There is a lot of sweet and sentiment in that fact–you and your wife should be proud. Raising siblings who don’t kill each other is an achievement. Ones who actually choose to like each other? That’s masterful.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      We’re not sure how that happened, actually. We try not to speak to loudly about it so we don’t scare it off.
      As for the nice furniture, the good news is that you will be so broke by the time your children leave that you won’t be able to afford nice furniture, so you’ll always have the crappy furniture to remember them by.

  10. Ned's Blog says:

    I could really feel this post, Ross. Not in a creepy, Mr. Whipple way, but as a dad. My oldest just got her own place last month. It’s within 10 minutes, but the trickle-down process is bitter-sweet, isn’t it?

    On another note, I just discovered my “follow you” has been out of commission for two months. I thought maybe it was just an extended Canadian walkabout or something. Clearly I have a lot of catching up to do, my friend.

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