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When the “Children” Come Home to Roost

What form does empty nest syndrome take when the flock comes home to roost? This is a question I murmured to myself over and over again while lying awake in bed weeks before the winter school break. Like death, taxes and mudslides in California, it was inevitable.  They were coming back.

My son Will, like his posse of friends, has been residing at an institute of higher leaning for nearly five months.  During that time he has attended classes, prepared meals for himself, washed his clothing and even cleaned his room a few times. Meanwhile my wife Janet and I had enjoyed a kind tranquility not often seen at our home; call it a peaceful interval free of video playing, fridge robbing and never leaving house guests. Minus the clamor provided by our three hound dogs, you might even describe our respite as serene.

Foolishly clinging to the hope that somehow the gathering hoard might have stumbled across adulthood while they were gone, the gang arrived last week and simply picked up where they left off last summer.  Releasing these guys into a greater environment of their peers brought home some added facial hair, but little cultivation.  Their friendship remained fully intact, as was their appetites.  Several months ago I began to carry my lunch to work.  I never minded leftovers and I felt like my break from fast foods would suit me well, physically and in the wallet.  Two days into the return of the masses I realized that there would be no leftovers until these marauders had safely returned to their respective cafeterias.

For a solid month our den once again became their clubhouse.  Tearfully, I said goodbye to my recliner, knowing that I would be relegated to the living room couch.  Over the preceding months the dogs had claimed the vacant living room as their own. Needless to say, I was coldly received.  The entire dynamic of the house reversed in time. The fleeting comforts that I had grown to love were quickly if not temporarily shelved.

Once again we were open for business for every like aged person in the vicinity. When the boys weren’t mowing down the Soviet infantry in “Call of Duty,” they were playing cards and leaving the strewn remnants of late night snacks for me to discover the following morning. Following a straight week of food, fun and firearms, the swarm was showing signs of boredom.  In an effort to spice up the proceedings, Will decided to purchase a can of Skoal and join the leagues of baseball players who prefer a pinch between their cheek and gums.  This ill conceived experiment ended badly for Will, resulting in the reappearance of a large slice of chocolate cake I had been saving for dessert. I could have survived the rest of my days without Will solving the conundrum of the missing cake. Some mysteries should simply remain shrouded amidst the fog.

Next month our mailbox will contain tangible evidence of the invasion in the form of noticeable spikes in our water, electric and grocery bills. The house will again grow silent and the gang will return to their respective universities. But the truth is that despite being exiled from my comfort zone, I will miss these kids more than ever.  What happens when the flock comes back to roost?  Well, some troubles to be sure  – but we are reminded how fortunate we are to witness the vibrancy of youth in a season that celebrates the importance of family and friends.

And besides – it’s probably good to get thrown out of your recliner every now and again.

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