How One Stranger’s Comment Had Me Pondering My Empty Nest

Have you ever heard someone say something that you knew was probably true but didn’t want to acknowledge or agree with? I have. It was just a few weeks ago.

Message From A Stranger

Our neighborhood set out luminaries on Christmas Eve. We’ve been doing it for years. In the early years, a crew went around the neighborhood and lit the candles in the bags at dusk. The past few years, they have asked us to light the candles along our property and pick up the slack if we had elderly neighbors or knew someone was out of town. 

When the time came, I went outside to light my candles before I went over to my Mom’s house for dinner. I noticed a gentleman working the other side of the street.

We have lived in our house for almost thirty years. I also lived in this neighborhood from the time I was in high school until I got married. My grandparents were the first in our family to build their home in the neighborhood in 1965. My mom lives in that home now. Many of our neighbors have lived here since the 1970s and 1980s. 

In recent years, there have been more renters in our neighborhood. And there have been new homeowners recently. In general, there are more unfamiliar people.

I didn’t recognize the gentleman lighting the candles across the street. Wanting to be neighborly, I asked him where he lived, thinking he was one of the newer neighbors.

As it turned out, he was from a completely different town. He and his wife were visiting the family behind me as his daughter was married to their son. The young couple has a brand new baby so the in-laws were spending Christmas together. (The young man and his brother were playmates of my son years ago. It’s fun that they both had their first children just about a month apart).

The gentleman, Jim, told me about his other daughters. One of them lives in Manhattan and one in College Station, Texas. He was surprised that I was familiar with College Station and that I had even been there. Then he made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. I have been pondering that comment since Christmas Eve.

He said, “I think it’s great when your kids grow up and move out on their own, even if it’s far away. It makes life much more interesting”.  

The first thing that popped into my head was “are you nuts? It would be much better to have your kids and grandkids close by so you could always see them.”  I even opened my mouth to respond then immediately shut it.

Of course, a father’s perspective on such things is probably a lot different from a mother’s but I began to think, maybe he has a point.

When Your Kids Are States Away

Both of my children ended up going to out-of-state colleges. Some of my fondest memories are of visits to see them when they were in college. We enjoyed our son’s time in Tuscaloosa and even got to attend several University of Alabama games and tailgates (Roll Tide). Spending time in Birmingham with our daughter for her different college events like Step-Sing was always fun. I had only driven through the state of Alabama, making one brief stop before they ended up going to college there.

I had never been to Nashville until my son was in college. He dated a girl who attended college in Nashville and we visited a couple of times. Then, he decided to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University. After graduation, he stayed and put down roots. Again, we have enjoyed visiting him there and have grown to love the city. I can’t imagine him living anywhere else.

My daughter married someone she went to college with and they decided to stay in Birmingham. Something about seasons and urban life and nearby rocks to climb.

In pondering, I started playing the what-if game, thinking about how one decision affects the next, and so on. 

If my son had not gone to Vanderbilt, I may not have ever gotten to experience a really cool city. If he had not stayed, he would not have met his lovely wife whose family has lived in the area for at least three generations. If he had not met and married his lovely wife, there would be no Leo, my precious grandson.

Perhaps my life has been more interesting because of where my children have chosen to live. I certainly do enjoy going to Nashville and Birmingham. I enjoy visiting with them in the mountains which are closer to them than home.

If I could just figure out how to get to them more often, especially a certain little boy who has captured my heart.

How about you? If you’re an empty nester, do your kids live far away? Has it made your life more interesting? Has anyone ever said anything to you that challenged your perspective? I’d love to hear.

One thought on “How One Stranger’s Comment Had Me Pondering My Empty Nest

  1. Both of my boys, and their awesome wives, live in other states! They are right where they are supposed to be! I love going to visit them…and when they come to visit us. Although I would love to see my boys every day, I praise Jesus that they have married amazing girls, are hard workers in their jobs, and are strong men of character. They are right where they are supposed to be! Great blog, Kim, as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

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