I type away at a breakfast bar turned desk. The fridge is full of leftovers because I’m either cooking too little or too much. Behind me, the couch, which serves as a bed lies somewhere under a pile of duvets, pillows, throws and cushions. Yes, I finally moved out and yes, despite the impromptu-ness of everything, life is good. But that’s not the reason why I sat down to type on a breakfast bar.
Many of you are probably familiar with The Empty Nest Syndrome. A quick search on Google will tell you it’s that feeling of loneliness and sadness parents feel when their children leave home for the first time. I believe I already had a taste of it when I moved to Dubai, even though everyone knew it would be temporary and that I was leaving behind 2 siblings. It still struck me that the faces I was used to seeing everyday as soon as I woke up and with whom I had spent a lifetime knowing – would not be around. This time round though, is a bit different.
I realised it happens in stages: the feelings don’t all rush in as you step out your parents’ home. They’re gradual and most of the time, diametrically opposite of each other.
STAGE 1: THE EXCITEMENT.
There’s not much to be said here. You have your own place and whether you’re moving out alone or with someone, it’s your space, your own. And that’s something some of us haven’t really had back at our parents’ home. The happiness as you’re getting close to the move is palpable. Your eyes glaze over when someone brings up the topic. Yes, I was quite desperate at one point to move. Between lugging bags here and there, it was also getting frustratingly tiring.
STAGE 2: THE GUILT
Kulhadd qed jitlaq Mike! Ha nispiccaw wehidna.
I remember once as I was packing books away (and dismantling my much loved rainbow bookcase – sad day!) my mum came in and stopped at the door. I realised she had never once seen that bookcase empty. I don’t think she said anything as I carried on with my task but her roaming eyes spoke volumes. Now, from a practical sense, this is Malta after all. As my friend pointed out, I’d only be a 20 minute drive away. I don’t wish to over-dramatise the whole transition but right then, when my mum shuffled in my room in her fleece pyjama and robe I almost felt bad about the whole thing. I could see how I was, in a way, dismantling a part of her nest… and leaving it for good.
STAGE 3: THE RESOLUTENESS
Moving out is normal. I believe they call it a circle of life.
When you realise that feeling bad about something which is only natural and which is bound to happen sooner or later is ridiculous. So you go back to packing and making plans with zest. Until…
STAGE 4: THE CONFRONTATION
When we moved out, it wasn’t really planned. We had thought we’d stay there for a weekend, which is apparently still on-going today, 2 weeks and a half later. So when I went home once and my father asked me whether I was sleeping there and I said no, he just bluntly stated, “So you’ve moved out.” Yes pop, I was really hoping I would avoid saying I’m leaving home for good but maybe not. Needless to say, they were happy for me though maybe not happy. My sister had moved out some 3 months before, my brother is spending more and more time outside home so yeah, the circle had indeed shrunk. When I complained then that the water pressure was still disastrous and I couldn’t possibly wash my hair, my father was quick to say I should wash my hair there because, he couldn’t resist adding, “We would love to have you around.” On Carl’s side of the fence, we hear his mother “Imissek tibqa tigi tiekol naqra maghna ta, nhar ta Hadd! Ahna niehdu pjacir bik ta!” And we’re back one stage…
STAGE 5: THE REALISATION
I suppose taking the time to reflect about changes and about how these affect not just me but the people around me helped me, but also my parents, to deal with the new changes. Thinking things through, be it thoughts, emotions or actions is always crucial. Always. So I talked about my typical day with my parents. I phoned them up to ask for advice or just to check on them. Sometimes, all they need is to feel “useful” to us. Which is just plain silly – mums and dads are not there to be useful, they’re there to be loved. But you try explaining that to my parents who keep asking me whether I want lunch for work the next day. And just sometimes, it’s good to say yes. It’s important, I’ve come to realise, to let them know they still play a very important role in your life.
I will miss home. I will miss the comforts my parents provided while I was busy doing other stuff. I will miss waking up to faces who are not getting any younger. I will miss my cats and the religious statuettes (which my cats largely hated), marking the passing of time. I will miss my father’s constant reproaches to close the blessed wardrobe doors “ghax jiddendlu” and my mother’s AH-MAZING kusksu which warms your soul. But, as wise Winnie the Pooh once said,
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Yes, Winnie. Very, very lucky. And it’s not even a goodbye. It’s a “see you so soon I won’t have anything new to tell you and if I do, I’d probably have phoned anyway. And there’s also leftover prinjolata in mum’s fridge so yes, very soon.”