I ride shotgun as my husband drives south on a Georgia highway towards Atlanta. Day has turned to night, and I stare out the windshield at the steady glow of a star. Stability in the sky.
We've spent the day looking at houses North of the city, towards trees and mountains and lakes. Towards possible homes for our newly-emptied nest. Towards possible places to begin a third act.
It took me a long time to get here. To this beginning. To even wanting a beginning. I reveled in the glorious middle of my story for so many years, and I didn't like it when I reached the end. I wanted it to continue.
We come closer to our suburb and the star disappears. I see the lights of Target, where we've shopped for the past 18 years. I see the red, neon open sign in the window of Kroger, where we pushed our babies in grocery carts and bought them candy in the checkout lines. I see the lights of the dry cleaners where we've dropped off countless bundles of our clothes. I see artificial lights, but remember real love.
I thought our life here would last forever. I loved it all: swing sets in the backyard, bikes in the garage, crayons throughout the house. The sound of my children's voices. Everyday. My son was only 1, and my daughter was 4, when we moved into our current home. I never thought I could leave it. I was too attached.
But those years didn't last forever. Our kids grew up. They opened my heart and blew my mind and then they left. And though I am grateful and happy and free at last, I, like most parents, have struggled with the loss and grief of letting go. It hasn't been easy, and I've had to make a concentrated effort to move on. But somehow, despite all of the conflicting emotions, or more likely, because of them, the ending is turning into a beginning.
Today I wasn't looking for backyards suitable for swing sets. I wasn't looking for neighborhoods full of children. And at times, what I wasn't looking for scared me and made me sad.
But then I saw porch swings. And backyard hot tubs. And gentle walking paths down to the water's edge. I saw possibilities that we never could have considered when our kids were young. And I remembered the many things that we loved before we were parents.
Aging brings the realization that there is always a beginning, a middle and an end. And that the only real stability is in the heart, down deep, where we store all the things we love.
I can't wait to find our empty nest house. If you drive by, we'll be the slightly graying couple on the porch swing, rocking it to and fro, reveling in our beginning.