Empty Nest Full Heart


There is a mysterious heaviness. I think it is a simple case of empty nest. Except not so simple. My eldest is leaving in the best possible way. Zafer worked all summer as hard as he could raising money to go to his new school, University of Colorado @ Boulder. The boy did manual labor for Logan Parker, cabinetmaker, Angelina, local food diva and an archeological rock dusting project. He met his goal to subsidize the tuition bills. A fabulous lovely amazing school in the smartest and healthiest city in the nation (according to Boulder tourism). He is independent, smart, handsome and has a great attitude going off into the big wide world. Boulder is about the coolest town ever with my sweet cousins, Charlie and Aly, Julian and Hudson, who will be looking after Zafer.
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I feel so good about how prepared he is for the world. So how come I’m a bit crippled and break into tears spontaneously? It’s a transition that I didn’t expect would be so big. We have crazy schedules and not much spare time and seems like having one less kid to take care of and clean up after is a relief.

It’s about the biggest change we’ve had since Uncle Mark died and it is now seeming like a loss. No more family dinners of 4 or 6 (with Jess and Kaitlin). It will be 3 at dinner.

Good news is that Lyle and I can go sailing. We can take Baby Blue across the nation again. We can work on the house, we can read, we can visit with our sweet friends and family. We can treat Arlo like an only child. I can have private time, time with the girls, time for adventure. The future is so bright. And yet, it’s so sad and heavy.

The question is, did we do the best possible job we could have? God only knows…there were such highs and such lows. We quit our jobs to be able to stay home and raise the boy. I sold Lyle’s art that he made out of scrap metal from our woods. With baby on my hip, I sold a ton of art in retrospect. We put him into a playgroup at Blanche Morrison’s….maybe the best mother earth woman in the county to help raise our kids. I was so lucky to have her guide me through new motherhood. Blanche would say “either he is going through a developmental phase, or Lyle is, or you are” to almost every crisis. I love that woman.
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From there to Montessori. Another wonderful program with Claudia. When it came time to go to public school, Zafer evidently had the hardest time at adjusting. He would cling to me at drop off while the other kids were super happy to be there. He kind of hated school for 13 years. Didn’t like the system, didn’t like when the other kids made fun of him for not believing in their god. He had different parents than most of the public school kids, different political beliefs, different scientific beliefs, and he was embarrassed about our very long driveway. Our house was a broken down farmhouse and our cars were a bit beat up.

Zafer was parachuted into a family of chaos. His Mom, Dad and brother thrived on spontaneity and lack of routine. We are a bit messy and sometimes dramatic, and our clothes don’t always match. His Dad wore a top hat, his Mom constantly took him to parties that she thought were costume and they were not. There is some definite scar tissue that he will have to work out in a therapist’s office. Zafer adapted best he could by keeping his side of the room in order and by support from his big sister, Jess.
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While we thought Z may end up running for a GOP office or working for Monsanto, we started to see glimmers of light when he began running the farmers market for Angelina. He started eating her greens and telling me her secret health tips. He filled up his water bottle on the way to cut cords of wood for Logan and mentioned the BPA free plastic. He loved driving Baby Blue around town. (extreme hippie mobile). He bragged about Logan’s solar panels and I felt a huge wave of relief.

This is really about me. It’s an identity crisis. A Mom for 18 years and a big part of who I am. Friends are explaining it to me and assure me that everything will be ok. Arlo is here for another two years, but has one foot out the door.

Things will never be the same. That is devastating. And the world is Zafer’s oyster and we get to watch that unfold. And that is pure joy.

About tamischwerin

I run a non-profit (Abundance NC) that builds community resilience including health of the earth, our bodies and our spirits. I also am active in creating an Eco-Industrial Park community in Pittsboro NC.

9 responses »

  1. I got to spend time with your two boys.. and I can say with full confidence.. Zafer is going to be an amazing man to watch develop in the coming years..

    and I think you’ll be alright.. I know.. transitions are tough, but if there’s one thing I’ve gotten to know about you.. you tend to run with things and see what you can do with them.. this will be no different.. and if you really can’t figure out what to do.. go dive in your pond from your porch and remember.. you’re living a dream life in many ways.. it takes a few tougher times, to keep your balance in check. 🙂


  2. I feel you, and I love you. I got the sweetest note from A and Z. In a few years we will be wearing purple and doing synchronized swimming with matching flower caps and tattoos. And the world will be our (older and slight wrinkled) oyster too. xoxo


  3. Thanks to Judge Baddour, I discovered this on FB today. I was waited upon by Zafer at Angelina’s recently and, after staring at him for a good 10 minutes, got up the nerve to ask him if he was Zafer. He very graciously acknowledged that he was, and when I introduced myself he had the good sense to say that he remembered me. What a charming young man he has become! I remember him so fondly from his little boy days at the GSC and am happy to hear that he is thriving. My empty nest days are still a long way off, but your words produced a twist of my heart that I imagine is a mere preview of coming events. I’m also thrilled to hear that another kid with weird parents made it through Chatham County public school. Love to you all….


  4. Nicely said!

    From my perspective, it’s obvious you did a great job of raising your sons in an intellectually and socially challenging environment with enough freedom to find their own way.

    But you are right, this is about you, not them. The balance of your life is shifting from caretaker to role model and I am sure you and will transition easily from housekeeper to idol. The best is yet to come!


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