|Jinny’s article will be written this week by her daughter, Adele Anderson.
IThis week there has been a temporary, but nonetheless significant alteration in my existence. On Saturday my college-age daughter moved out with her cousin into her own apartment and on Sunday my 9-year-old son went off for a week to Boy Scout camp. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but when it is the first time in over 21 years that you have been alone for a full week, it achieves a whole new level of meaning.
I am not ashamed to admit that I have been looking forward to this since I realized that it was going to happen. For the last 21 years I have had two jobs. This was the first real vacation I was going to have from one of them. I was going to enjoy it.
I had all sorts of plans. Projects I had put on hold, housework I wanted to do with no one around to mess it up, books I wanted to read. I was full of productive energy and ready to roll.
Now it is Thursday and I am confronted with the awful fact that I have done almost less than nothing with the past 4 days. Even worse, I have discovered that I am probably not entirely normal.
When I told friends and co-workers about my impending week of freedom, I generally got one of two reactions. A lot of people asked me what fun, “night on the town” type things I had planned. They were generally rather surprised to discover that I didn’t have any. When I told a group of women acquaintances at work this, they were universally appalled.
“Are you out of your mind?” asked one.
I’m never sure how to answer this question. I mean; if you are out of your mind, do you recognize the fact? And if you do, are you supposed to admit to it?
“Why aren’t you going out and enjoying yourself?” asked another. “At least go shopping.”
“I hate shopping,” I said.
That right there was probably going to get me kicked out of the girls’ club.
“Well, what are you doing?” asked another.
“I am enjoying the solitude and doing a lot of reading.” I was beginning to feel a little defensive.
“Reading? Like books?”
“Why don’t you do something to pamper yourself?” asked one of my friends who obviously felt that I required guidance. “Like light a bunch of candles, put on some soothing music, and take a long, hot bubble bath.”
I was horrified. “It’s 900 degrees outside!” Besides, I hate bubble baths. I wasn’t going to admit to that, however. My membership in the girls’ club was already in serious jeopardy as it was. I had this vivid and painful image of me in my little, cramped, modern bathtub, soaking in steaming bubbly water, surrounded by burning candles and the terminally boring music of Enya, with my dog and cat sitting and staring at me as if I were completely out of my mind, while I slowly expired from a combination of suffocation and dehydration. It wasn’t a pretty image.
The small group of women all rolled their eyes in perfect synchronization. Is there an Olympic event for that? If so, I had some guaranteed medal winners here.
“So, what are you doing tonight?” someone asked.
“Well, actually…there is a program on the History Channel I don’t want to miss.” Here was something I could get enthusiastic about. “It’s a reenactment of a very famous battle that Alexander the Great fought in Persia against Darius and his famous Immortals. They are using video game technology so that you can see the entire battle. I’m really looking forward to it.”
This outburst was greeted with absolute stunned silence. They all stared at me, most of them with their mouths hanging open.
“What?” I asked.
“Adele, you are a freak,” stated one of them. They all walked off shaking their heads. If they didn’t medal in the synchronized eye rolling, they were a shoe-in for the synchronized head shaking event.
The other question I heard often was whether I was feeling the deadly “empty nest” syndrome. I was a great deal more careful answering this one. Frankly, I have not felt the least bit of separation anxiety during this week. My son is at camp less than 20 miles away and my daughter is down the street. They aren’t on the moon. They’ll both be back. I am fairly certain that they are both having a good time. Should I be grief stricken or something? I tried to be very vague and noncommittal when I answered this question. If I told how I really felt, I am certain someone would have interpreted it being rather unnatural and as yet more evidence of my freakdom.
The week is coming to an end and I have not done much more than read and enjoy the absolute peace and silence of my home. This is the most unproductive that I have been in 21 years. Normally, I’m not very good at doing nothing. It is amazing what a little time alone can teach you. This week I have learned that I can do nothing, not suffer from mind-bending guilt, and really enjoy it. Of course, I have also learned that I may very well be an abnormal freak. Wait a minute…I already knew that.