Sunday, December 5, 2010

Empty Nest

There are the usual comments and things empty nesters notice when their children are gone from the house, the solitude - the peculiar way the way rooms and bathrooms stay tidy. But I’ve noticed some interesting new habits my husband and I have picked up since our only child has gone off to college.

We’ve reverted back to Cro-Magnon behaviors of sniffing and studying our food before we eat it. We never simply open the milk jug and pour as we used to do when Emily was home. Instead, we cautiously swirl what’s left of the gallon and sneak a whiff to save us the horror of pouring a coagulated sour mess over a bowl of Cheerios. As the weeks go by and the bread bag gradually grows emptier, I find myself holding each slice up to the light of the oven hood, searching out blue-green whispers of mold. Squinting and turning, squinting and turning until I’m relatively certain it’s fine.

Our dishwasher is shockingly full of spoons. We’ve become those people who eat peanut butter on a banana and call it supper. Spoons from dipping into the peanut butter jar, spoons from all the cereal we’ve been eating, spoons from yogurt. I feel like a terrible person for running the dishwasher because we’ve simply run out of clean spoons so I throw in our toothbrushes and the permanently spaghetti-sauce-stained spatulas to see if one more round of dishwashing might lighten their orange glow.

I opened the cereal closet the other day (yes we have a closet just for cereal) and I smelled a dead body. After lifting boxes here and there hoping I wouldn’t find someone’s forgotten fingers, I remembered this odd vegetable we used to eat a lot of “Once upon a time,” called a potato. I had to scrape the melted spuds off the shelf with – you got it – our last clean spoon.