kids moving out

My debut on NPR: “The Fence”

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Scenes From An Emptying Nest


In my mind, the scene plays out like a bittersweet Bill Forsyth movie. My sons Peter and Evan are set to depart for Los Angeles to chase pop music dreams. The car is packed and idling in the driveway. Soft breezes wash through the trees outside our house. Birds chirp.

As Deb gives the boys her good-bye hug on the porch, she speaks with the wisdom and love of every mother who has ever lived. I hand the boys an envelope. It contains my epic poem on the eternal bond between fathers and sons, surpassing Homer and Joyce in its insight. And now a car pulls up. It’s Juliana, making a surprise early return from her Martha’s Vineyard getaway because she can’t let her brothers get away without a sister’s kiss.

Cue the music for the final scene: Mark Knopfler serenades the boys as they drive down Peirce Street and into their future. Dolly back, fade to black.

Of course, it doesn’t happen this way – just ask National Grid. On departure day morning at 7:00 sharp, they show up right outside our house with a mountain of dirt and a whirling Bobcat. A backhoe doubles as the boys’ alarm clock, pounding Peirce Street and shaking the house. No birds are chirping now.

Inside, the mundane and the practical trump my cinematic visions. Do you have clean towels? Where’s your shaving kit? Anyone seen the phone chargers? Did you get to the bank? For the hundredth time, I tell Peter and Evan to make sure they take 287 West for the Tappan Zee Bridge. Eyes roll. And then the rain comes – torrents – forcing the National Grid guys to stop their banging and huddle under a tent. We continue to load the car in the downpour – the boys are on a schedule.

Finally, at the moment of departure, disaster strikes – a family fender bender in the driveway threatens the trip before it even begins. We survey the damage in disbelief. How do you open the hood? Where’s the manual? This morning, we are more Griswold than Greek poetry.

But somewhere the gods are watching over us. The driveway mishap is more ding than disaster. With the car’s front grill popped back into place, the boys depart at last.

And just like that, a milestone Thursday turns ordinary. I go to work. Deb arranges to pick up Julie at the Fast Ferry. The Red Sox beat the Mariners. National Grid patches the road and moves the orange cones to the next block.

When Julie leaves for college in August, the flight will be complete. Deb and I will be empty nesters, though that’s a misnomer. Memories will fill the house. Remember the time the Christmas tree fell over? The first night with Moxie as a puppy? Basketball games in the basement between the Celtics and the Monkey Team? Midnight breakfasts? Talks about what you want to be when you grow up?

In my mind, these scenes play over and over – a family movie never taken, still in development, based on a true story, already a classic.

For Peter and Evan, somewhere between Columbus and St. Louis.

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