Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Have SEEN the Future

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: This past weekend, I took a trip to the future. My future, that is – as a SEEN. No, you haven't heard that acronym, because I just made it up (and if someone on Newsweek starts tossing it around next month, I expect royalties.) Remember DINK, a popular designation back in the go-go eighties? Double Income No Kids? I intend to be a Self Employed Empty Nester.

I expect this to be the hot concept in social constructs in the coming years. Everyone in my generation is aging rapidly, and our children are finally heading out into the world of academia and work. (Don't tell me that one quarter of all recent college grads are living with their parents. I CAN'T HEAR YOU lalalala--) Where was I? Oh, yes, the empty nest. Picture the bliss: one load of laundry each week rather than seven. Gas that stays in the tank rather than evaporating overnight. Opening the NETFLIX envelope and finding the Miss Marple series you ordered, instead of 2FunkCrew Live in Concert.

Of course, my generation will also be working, rather than retiring. We will do this because we've spent years chasing the ideal that work shapes your living, rather than makes a living. We'll do it because we want to stay in peak form, mentally and physically. And I, for one, will do it because as of today, my retirement accounts consist of $57. 49, a Lotto ticket, and a dollar-off coupon for Wendy's. Many of us will be self employed, due to the massive layoffs labor consolidations of recent years. Expect to see a future filled with hand-beaded jewelry and intuitive Tarot therapy.

How did I get my preview of my life as a SEEN? My husband and I dropped the Youngest off for a week at camp. The Smithie and the Boy were self-sustaining units over the weekend (we rely on our policy of Mutually Assured Blabbing to make sure the rules are kept while we're away.) From a library fundraiser this spring, we had a coupon good for one night at a lovely seaside resort. So – and this is the part that will have all of you still raising children clutching your throat and breathing heavily – we spent 24 hours completely child-free.

We went shopping – and no one begged for clothes, snacks, candy, magazines or toys. We took a long walk along a sea wall – and never once had to tell a soul to get off that railing right now before you fall in. We ate at a restaurant that did not have baskets of crayons at the maitre d's station. We enjoyed a delicious meal with several glasses of wine and never once engaged in a debate as to why a seafood restaurant doesn't serve pizza or chicken fingers, and shouldn't they? We spent the night in a comfortably-appointed room without a roll-away wedged in at the foot of our bed. We wandered for hours through the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a destination that would have rendered our teens catatonic with boredom in fifteen minutes.

Reader, it was divine. Even coming home to find a full litter box and a pot of mac and cheese that had been sitting out in the heat for 48 hours didn't dampen the pleasure. I know it will be a long time coming. The Youngest is only ten, after all. But it's out there, the far country filled with classical music on the car radio and dinners a deux.

I have been to the mountain, and I have SEEN the promised land!


  1. Thanks for the wonderful read. Some really good lines, like eating out without crayons on the table. Ha. But I have news for you. When the kids have kids, it starts all over again. ARRGGGGGHHHHH.

  2. I've got one of those still-at-home offspring (a Smithie, no less), but at least she's gainfully employed, and at a bookstore, where she gets (me) a nice discount.

    Since she works long hours, six days a week, I don't see much of her. When she is around, I use her as a resources ("would a twenty-something really say this?").

    However, her stuff seems to crawl over every surface in the house, and she's using the front stairs as a shoe rack. I really would like to see my floor again sometime.

  3. I so related to this, Julia - I remember when...

    My daughters are now in all growed up, and by the time they went off to college we were ALL (them included) so ready for them to go! Now, I'm so happy, deliriously happy, that they still want to occasionally come back.

    I love my empty nest. But when I repainted "their" bedrooms, they still got to pick the colors.

  4. You tell such a delightful story!

    And ditto what Hallie said. Although this fall I will have NO son in the state, and probably through Christmas (gulp, wipe away a tear). Not looking forward to that; one fix will be a trip to Puerto Rico to visit one of them at Thanksgiving and a weekend in DC with the other.

    What I didn't expect, besides getting my house back, was what a huge pleasure it is seeing the fine adults my children have become and getting to know them on that basis.


  5. Thanks for the delightful morning read, Julia.

    Diane and I are DINKs but have watched our friedns and sibs approach the SEEN stage, mostly with joy bubbling out their pores in precisely the way you describe.

    On another topic, my captcha word today is Mary Pine. It's a Maine thing, I guess.


  6. Our youngest was a freshman at Smith and we were down to only 1 child at home.She is our oldest,working full time & finishing her degree PT,so wasn't around much.IT was wonderful.BLTS for supper if we wanted,gas in car tank,a grown daughter to do things with at times.Our Smithie is back for the summer,our older daughter graduated & moved to her own apt & our 27 year old son moved BACK IN temporarily!!Always something new...

  7. What a fun moment on an otherwise uneventful (so far..) Tuesday!

    I know when the grands come--even for a few days--it's like--chaos! We adore them--but the house is so peaceful when they go.

  8. This cracked me up!!! So nice that you have this to look forward to, Julia! I have been SEEN for ten years now, and as much as I adore my daughter, I can't say I've ever pined for her to move back in.

    But please don't tell me the Cialis ad is in my future. What on earth are people supposed to do side-by-side in two separate bathtubs??????????

  9. SO with you Debs. What does that two-bathtub thing even MEAN? And why would they be out on the pier?

    How did they get there? And what are they wearing, since no discarded clothes are around? And what's IN the bathtubs? If water, how'd it get there?

    And why would you be in a bathtub, ALONE, in water, BY the water?

  10. So enjoyed this, Julia. I'm at the SEEN stage (if my youngest doesn't have to move back in because he can't find a job after he graduates). We love to see the kids when they come home, always. But it's really nice to live alone together as adults. (So please let the economy turn around and give my brilliant youngest a job!)

  11. Oh man! I won't be SEEN for so long! I had my second at age 44. It's way out there in the distance. . . .
    Great post.

  12. I know, those Cialis ads crack me up. That's why I had to include one. I'm thinking, "Really? That's what I have to look forward to? The two of us in separate bathtubs looking out over our vacation paradise?"

    Also, I have to confess for all my anticipation over being SEEN, I still bawled my eyes out when we dropped the Smithie off at moving-in day last fall. I'll probably do the same thing this September.

  13. Wonderful post -- I've been a SEEN for some time now -- though I do have the bonus of a son and his girlfriend living on our farm, a quarter of a mile away. Having one's cake and eating it too...

  14. You hit nail on proverbial head(s).

  15. What a great post! I've enjoyed being SEEN for so long that I can't wait to get three of my little granddaughters for the next six days. Yippee! Smurfs, Canobie Lake and back-to-school shopping. Sleeping on fat cushions on the floor and eating popcorn. Good times.

    Hank, you crack me up!

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