Kid Two came home this weekend, walked in the door, went to the fridge and had a melt-down! "What has happened around here? There's NOTHING in this fridge, and NOTHING in the cupboard."

Kid One and his wonderful new wife came in a couple of weeks back; he went to the fridge and scolded... "Every single thing in this fridge is low fat or no fat... your body needs SOME fat! Go get a big, greasy burger!"

Kid Three and her husband and their hyperactive dog come and bring tofu. They don't look in the fridge. They've never really been interested in what's in the fridge. Well, except our son-in-law who's on a constant quest for chocolate.

"Well," I said to Kid Two, "we kind of shop when we're going to be here."

I said nothing to Kid One about the low-fat, no-fat stuff. He'll understand someday.

Welcome to the reality of the empty nest.

It's a funny thing as bedrooms turn into office space. We're down to one extra bedroom now... Kid Two really hasn't totally launched, yet... she graduates this spring in another city, but her 'stuff' is still here. We have a sort-of guest room in another part of the house. It's mostly used for things that are on their way to the basement.

I sat in the living room last week and in between the cushions in the sofa was a dinner napkin... probably from last April!

Welcome to the Empty Nest!

All over this city people like my first husband and I are grappling with a new reality. It's called quiet. We actually get to finish our sentences now... if we can remember what we were going to say! We don't have to remind each other who's picking up whom. We don't meet on Sunday evenings anymore so we can work out the complicated reality of two careers, three kids and 47 weekly activities.

I haven't assigned household chores for a long, long time. There are no longer boots to trip over when I come in the back door. Even the dog seems quiet.

Where did those crazy days go? The late-night squeaking of the clothesline as I hung out diapers. Yes, I did. Large, square, flannelette diapers. The special trips to fulfill a dream. Kid One, asked what experience he'd like to have one Thursday evening, looked at me seriously and said, "I'd really, really like to have a submarine sandwich! We put his sister in the carriage and walked down to Dunlop St and he went through the remarkable experience of ordering his first sub.

Where did those days go? Sticky fingerprints on absolutely everything! (Currently, our back door and deck window are so smooshed you'd think a two-year old had been living here... nope! It's the five dogs that come visit on a regular basis!

Birthday parties. The challenge of coming up with a unique cake. Making Christmas presents. The excitement of planning gifts for everybody. The trip to open first bank accounts. The excitement of placing a book order with Mary Howden at the Frog Prince. Choosing a first bike. With training wheels.

Getting in line to be early at the Ski Swap. Outfitting our ski racers with acceptable race equipment for the season. Getting up at 5:30 am to get to a ski hill somewhere else in Ontario to watch the bottom half of a 27 second run. Dressing kid and self, undressing kid and self, getting into bathing suits for Diaper Duckies at the Y.

School plays. School fun fairs. School parent-teacher meetings. School councils. School report cards. School social life. School attendance challenges. School science projects. School expectations. School graduations.

Pictures. Albums. Books. Gifts. Thank you letters. Discussions. Curfews. Expectations. G1's. (remember your 90-day?). First computers. Typing Tutor. SimCity. Computer Monopoly. Email. Dialup. Downloads. MSN.

And as suddenly as it began, filling with tears, tantrums, and laughter, the house is quiet again. Phone calls recede. The car is usually full of gas. The screwdriver is exactly where I left it. So is the portable drill. The washing machine runs twice a week. The dryer runs only in the winter.

The nest is empty.

And so, as our lives take on a different rhythm, the many friends we've promised to call and visit start to get attention. We start to take walks together. With the dog. The training wheels and little bikes and wagons and miniature lawn mowers and sand toys are a fading memory.

The kids, however, are not.

There's an enormous gap between that first mew of a new baby and the rumble of the truck as the furniture heads out the door for a new apartment. And in that gap is every possible emotion at every possible intensity.

It's no wonder the mornings start slow. Find the paper. Make the coffee. Sit and read. Have a bowl of cereal, skim milk, no sugar. And then head into the bathroom for showers and work schedules.

It's no wonder there's not much in the fridge.

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