Barbara Wood's 'Dispatches from the Home Front': Nest refuses to empty; mama flies the coop


By Barbara Wood

Special to The Almanac

The youngest of our three children has started college and right now, my husband and I ought to be celebrating that much-anticipated parental milestone, the empty-nest.

Alas, even before child number three flew off to New York for a few months of freedom before starting academic life, the middle child moved back home. Riley had one more semester at San Francisco State and it seemed silly to pay for room and board on a campus a mere half-hour away. For his part, Riley was quite happy to be at home where his room is about the size of his entire campus apartment and his mom does his laundry.

For a few months we had even reached the summit of parental aspiration — all three children were gainfully employed. (Who would have thought that a business would hire my child because she has dreadlocks and a ring through her nose — thank you, Urban Outfitters!)

But the people paying Riley ran out of software for him to document, and the youngest had to actually start school, so that particular state of bliss was short-lived. (By the way, if anyone knows where an entry-level technical writer could find a job, please, please let me know. He's experienced, talented, and a good worker. But I would like him to get out of the house more, and his job as a census enumerator ends soon.)

Despite the fact that he is forced to be a vegetarian at least five nights a week, Riley seems quite content to live at home forever. It works for us because he can feed the dog and lock the chickens in the coop at night if we're not around. And it cuts the number of empty bedrooms down from four to three.

Because he usually only comes out of his room in search of food or water, Riley's presence in the house could hardly be described as an imposition.

And right now it's working out rather well because since February I have been working for the Red Cross in San Jose four days a week. For the first time in 20 years I am going in to an office on a regular basis; for the first time in my life I'm a commuter.

I'm not completely sure how I ended up with the job, except that I had been spending so much volunteer time working in the Red Cross office that when I heard there was a job opening that no one seemed to be clamoring for, I decided I might as well get paid for being there.

And I have to admit, I miss the presence of young people in my house so much that I've offered to rent a room to a young Red Cross employee. It's just not right for that bedroom to sit there empty.

Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener from Woodside.

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