Monday, February 26, 2024

The Soapbox: The Sting

Brandi Chambless

The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.—Leonardo Da Vinci

How I love the last days of summer in the country where the vegetables are ripened on the vine just before the autumn winds sweep in! This is my dwelling place following the long-awaited college drop off of my recently graduated senior. Finally, 2020! Welcome, Dear Me, to empty nest.

It’s okay. I am enjoying myself. Curly hair, don’t care.

Walks down the lane. Dips in the pool. Drip dries on the porch. Nature’s sauna is being oh so kind to me.

Do I miss my baby? Well, of course, of course, I do! But I was prepared to find a little more time to get quiet—to write.

Like today when I brewed a full pot of coffee and headed across the porch to my writing nook. All was quite well, until a wasp decided to plant a stinger right into my left hand, causing me to drop an empty mug on my right foot where it shattered and left a gash. I did not spill the carafe, but I hobbled around through the house and left behind a trail of blood as if wild game had just been slaughtered.

About that time, the swelling began to stiffen my wrist and tingle up my arm. That’s when my lip swelled to High Heaven, but only on my left side so I still partially had my swagger in case I needed to Zoom someone. A wave of nausea flushed over me, forcing me into a chair where I wondered if I should call for help.

Because I have quite a reputation among my country cousins for being a city slicker, I knew that unless I was either dead or unconscious, I would not benefit from dialing 9-1-1. When I say they call me Annie Oakley, it’s not because I am a sharp shooter. Rather, I mainly have an aversion to country mice, lizards, and snakes that the strong men of my childhood once took care of so I wouldn’t have to gaze upon such unpleasant things.

So here sit I, with puffy hand, bloody foot, fat lip, wild and woolly, with coffee and laptop in tow to write my reflections of this bittersweet season. Ah, what peace, thou empty nest! What sting hath thy brought upon me!?

This thing called empty nest all started with an organized corona-monitored entrance to my son’s first arrival to campus. Eight lanes of traffic across and one hundred cars deep, we sat in a vast gravel parking lot. Nobody got in without a wrist band, mask, and signature bottled water. Parents were like ants going this way and that with their young following one car behind.

For a brief moment we were separated. Before we could come back together, I saw him and one other driver simultaneously throw cars into park and run across the hot parking lot for a man hug. He and his friend exchanged disbelief at meeting this way following their introduction via a Zoom group during the pandemic. I became instant friends with his Mom who was also sending off her one and only.

From that point on, my baby was leading me. I followed behind that strong and independent young man. We spent our day putting his world together in his new home, and we didn’t make a big deal about the goodbye, though it was tough on both of us.

My heart instantly remembered my friend Deepa. No sisterhood could ever be as unique as the one she and I shared at Heritage Elementary in Highland Village when our sons once turned the corner into Mrs. Hartman’s kindergarten class on the first day of school. I had never met her in my life, nor her little son, Joshua, until that moment. But, when our sons were no longer in sight, we both fell into each other’s arms and wept. We have kept up with each other through the years as a remembrance of one of our most special memories in the lives of our precious boys. She later gave birth to a precious daughter and her nest was full again.

So after the drop off, when my son called to tell me he was having the time of his life, I told him what happened with the wasp. My story was met with a brief moment of teenage concern, but then it was back to the friend group. He really was having the best time of his life.

The days of being a Mama and a Daddy can be like that. Regular, ordinary, catastrophic, fun, proud, and thrilling are the best of my 18 years of memories when he was just a boy. I thank God for the gift of seeing my baby into young adulthood! What a ride it has been and what friends I have made with this common impossible task of loving completely while letting go, just a little at a time, while at the same time holding on forever. The sting of this empty nest thing might not be so bad after all, I decided, as I sit here and write this message underneath the oaks.

Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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