You probably began noticing me sometime in late July.
I was the one catatonically roaming through the aisles of the big-box housewares emporium like some zombie in a B-movie horror flick, awkwardly juggling both my lists and oversized blue coupons with one hand, while attempting to steer my cart with the other, often veering off course in a manner reminiscent of my sons, back when they were in drivers' ed class, seemingly a lifetime ago.
Truth be told, I found these visits to be oddly cathartic, for though I had no power whatsoever about the gradual emptying of our nest, it gave me a certain amount of pleasure to ensure that my offspring ventured out into the world well-equipped with brand new home furnishings, accessories and electronics.
Once, I spent an entire evening in the bedding department deciding between two comforter ensembles; you'd have thought that our kids' collegiate success hinged on whether I went with the Nautica or the Tommy Hilfiger.
Back when I was in college, my parents never considered supplying me with such luxuries.
I arrived on campus with hand-me-down belongings, all of which were packed into plastic milk crates that my friends and I permanently "borrowed" from the alley behind the grocery store.
Needless to say, none of my stuff was, as is our sons', color coordinated.
Extra-long twin sheets hadn't even been invented yet, nor had shower caddies, so I was forced to haul my Flicker razor, Herbal Essence shampoo, and Tickle deodorant in a common household bucket, with my brother's ancient Scooby-Doo towel draped over my arm with "SILVER" written in black permanent marker to ensure its safe return should I "accidentally" leave it in the communal bathroom and make off with someone else's more feminine and socially acceptable Hello Kitty or Strawberry Shortcake variety.
Now, because we have a puppy dog living under our roof, our nest is technically not empty.
But since her meals come from the frou-frou pet store (instead of Stew's or Stop & Shop), my traditional grocery shopping has come to a near screeching halt.
A one-time purchaser of thrice-weekly cartfuls of items whose names carried the prefix "chewy" this or "frosted" that, and whose ingredients were mainly multisyllabic and unpronounceable (pyridoxine hydrochloride, anyone?), I am now pretty much free to procure whatever it is that my husband and I would like to consume.
Some days, I prepare fish dishes (which my kids had refused to eat), but on other days, I'm the embodiment of the old joke, "What does a Jewish woman make for dinner?" (answer: reservations).
Now, some of you more cynical types might look at the sparse contents of my shopping cart, with its sad six-pack of bottled water, small bag of prewashed lettuce, and pitiful single pint of Ben & Jerry's, and declare it to be half-empty.
And I would too, except that when I think of my now (semi) independent sons, one whose life is filled with fraternity meetings (and parties), football games, and (presumably) classes, and the other who's exploring many new cities while in the beginning stages of his exciting consulting career, I swallow my sorrow and, instead, choose to see it as half-full.
Layla Ann Silver is a freelance writer who had always thought that when her sons were gone, she'd be swinging from the chandeliers. Turns out, she doesn't have any chandeliers, so she's happily settling for living in a house where the toilet seats are (usually) down. She can be reached at email@example.com.