Empty Nest, Again
BY DEBORAH LEVIN
Yesterday I took apart their cribs. With great reluctance, I pulled off the sheets, the mattress covers, the waterproof pads and slipped each into the plastic zippered bags I had been storing them in between use by my older grandchildren (now 11 and 14 years) and my newest. These newest are not really new anymore; my grand-twins turned four last week. We had converted the cribs into toddler beds two years ago but having grown- as children do- there was now barely an inch to spare on those mattresses.
I run my fingers over its surface and see their baby smiles, hear their coos and their cries.
There was no denying it now; it was time. I no longer had babies to lift up and over the side rail, cradle in my arms, snuggle into my shoulder. Diapers disappeared long ago and certainly were not missed, but folding those little clothes fresh from the dryer gave me great pleasure. As did pushing them on the swings in the park and placing them carefully into the front section of a supermarket cart, watching them point their tiny fingers at everything, eager to know it or name it, wanting to make it part of the new and exciting world they were just beginning to explore.
I just have not been able to take away the symbols of that very special time in my life as a new grandmother.
I no longer had toddlers anymore either. Despite being 3 ½ lb. preemies at birth, both of them are now at the very top of the growth charts in height and weight. Big beds it has to be. It’s not as if that’s a problem, by the way. There is a set of bunk beds in that room, purchased for the older grandchildren, who used to spend every other weekend at our house when they lived in a cramped NYC apartment but, now that they have a house of their own, stay overnight infrequently. Yet I have been postponing this day since my daughter’s last trip home with her family at Thanksgiving, knowing full well that on their next trip home this Spring they’d be sleeping in big beds. I just have not been able to take away the symbols of that very special time in my life as a new grandmother.
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Just before their second birthday, I came home from a trip to California (where they live) feeling bereft and puzzled as to why. It had been a wonderful visit, as always. When I went upstairs to put something away in “their” room and saw the empty cribs, the answer dawned on me. The twins were growing into their individual selves, preferring to walk rather than be carried, to run rather than walk, to feed themselves rather than be fed, to play rather than sleep. There were no more babies in my life, and I was feeling the loss.
So I bought a puppy and named her Sally, after my daughter’s favorite doll when she was growing up. Small, soft, and ever-so-portable, I devoted all of my grandmother’s time and energy to her. Then she also grew too big to carry!
Two years later, I’m back to square one. My puppy is full-grown now, her personality developed, her place in our lives established. The twins are little people. They need big beds. I have to force myself to get down to the nuts and bolts- quite literally- and find the Allen wrench I need to actually dismantle the cribs’ frames. The beautiful, smooth natural oak is in perfect shape save a bite mark or two where baby teeth gently scratched the wood. I run my fingers over its surface and see their baby smiles, hear their coos and their cries. You can’t feel the love but I know it’s there, in abundance. Forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Deborah Levin
Deborah Levin lives in Westchester County, NY with her husband and lovable Labradoodle. Her work has been published in the New York Times and Clinical Social Work journals, Grown and Flown. Pulse and GRAND Magazine.