I’ve spent the last several days with my daughter and her family. It’s funny, their house is only a couple of hours away and between both our schedules finding the time to get together always seems to present a challenge.
It’s dark outside and I’m up and have startled my heart into action with a cup of extremely strong coffee. Packed once again, I’m headed for home. As usual, they will expect me to be far down the road by the time they get up. It is their weekend, so I would presume that would be just in time for lunch.
Leaving always brings out a bit of the melancholy in me. I guess it’s because for eighteen plus years I was the center of my children’s universe, and now they have created universes of their own, and new universes have branched off from theirs. It is the circle of life, and sometimes I feel like I’m standing outside of the circle.
On pondering when my children first fled the nest, my daughter, the oldest, was the first to to spread her wings. I can see myself the day she moved sitting cross-legged on the carpet of her empty room holding her murky fish bowl. All her furniture was now being set up in her new bedroom, and everything not permanently attached to the house from her old room was packed and loaded in the rented trailer. After years of runny noses, scraped knees, dried tears and more recently, hugs to help mend a broken heart or two, it seemed all I had left of her were two nearly dead goldfish and a monthly bill for tuition. Seeing a lone bubble rise inside the gray water added to my desolate feeling and helped jump-start a good two-hour crying jag.
For many parents when their offspring move out on their own it is a difficult transition period. This, of course, is a broad generalization, as some parents have the exact hour and minute their charges turn eighteen programmed in their cell phones, and await that time with unbridled enthusiasm. These parents view it as a time to reclaim the remote, walk from the shower to the bedroom without a towel, and redecorate the newly vacated room as a sewing room or man cave. As we parents wave goodbye, box of Kleenex at the ready, our semi-adult children, on the other hand, are revved up like high powered motorcycles, chomping at the bit at the starting line of a race. They just can’t wait to hit the gas and propel themselves down the road, barely casting a glance in the rear view mirror. At least, I know I felt that way.
For me it meant making my own decisions, no matter how poorly thought out, coming and going as I pleased, eliminating the words “restriction”, which I was regularly on, and “convent”, where I was regularly threatened with going to, from my vocabulary, and generally involving myself in any mayhem within the boundaries of the law this little blonde head was capable of conjuring up, and that presented itself as a formidable list. Free at last!
Of course, I didn’t take into consideration that this glorious umbrella raining freedom on me came with a large hole in the bucket. Allowance was also eliminated from my vocabulary, and bills came in with my name printed on them. Once a month my unreasonable landlord demanded the rent, and it seemed if he didn’t get it I would find myself living under the bridge with the trolls. My dad no longer filled my tank with gas, and I had to learn how to check the oil and put air in my tires. Generally, the cost of freedom in my mind came with a mighty heavy price.
My freedom was short-lived really, because within the first year of experiencing the wind beneath my wings, I got married and welcomed two little ones in the following two years. Truly, I never really experienced being out on my own in the truest way again until they moved out one after the other in my fortieth year.
After finding myself on my own, I spent several months serving up a large ladle from the self pity pot into my bowl every day. The house echoed with only the dog, cat and I roaming through it. Coming home after work and finding just their furry faces for company was good, but not quite as good. Not a moper by nature, one day I slapped myself soundly across the face, grabbed myself up by my suspenders and shook myself hard and went about the business of getting out and rejoining the world around me. In the ten years following I got remarried, traveled the roads with construction crews, moved more times than I have digits, and saw a great deal of this United States that I missed the first time I had the pleasure of exploring it. I discovered the south, which enriched me with its friendly people, fabulous food and damnable heat, West Virginia, with its beautiful mountain ranges and deep sense of history, and Washington state was revisited, and once again didn’t fail to make me sad to have to leave.
As always, I seem to find myself back in California. Family draws me here, and you can’t fault the weather.
Now, my daughter is facing a nest that is missing its first egg. As best I could, I explained that it’s not the end of her relationship with her child, it’s just the beginning of new and different relationship. Whether we like it or not, they’re going to grow up and move out, at least, most of the time. It is how it’s meant to be. As I told her, I think it’s also the beginning of establishing a new relationship with herself and redefining who she is beyond the word “mother”. If she’s lucky, her proginy will produce some grandchildren down the road, as mine did, and enrich her life once again.
Oh, she replaced the empty spot with her new kitten. Seems he understands exactly what’s expected of him. Smile.
Hearty Potato Soup with Proscuitto
2 oz. proscuitto, thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
8 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups whole milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes dissolved in 1/2 cup milk
1 cup half and half
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Parsley, sour cream, and cheddar cheese for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place prosciutto slices on pre-sprayed cookie sheet in a single layer. Place in oven for 8-10 mins. until crisp. Watch to keep from burning. Place on paper towel and allow to cool. Crumble.
In large saucepan, melt butter. Saute onion and carrots until slightly tender, about 5 mins. Add garlic, cook additional 1 min. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 min. Add potatoes, milk, and dissolved bouillon cubes to pan. Cook about 30-35 mins. or until potatoes are very soft and starting to dissolve, stirring often. Lightly mash large pieces against side of pan, leaving some chunks of potato. Add half and half, salt, and peppers. Mix well.
Remove from heat. Ladle in soup bowls and top with crumbled prosciutto and garnishes. Serve hot with crusty bread.