Margaret Dewilliam Horton Empty Nest

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He did it. I hope I’ve captured the smile; the pride and unabashed happiness. The freedom he must feel.  Earlier, there was a procession in black robes and tasseled hats. After a morning of introductions, speeches, advice and well wishes, we are waiting for it to become official.

He turns his head to the sound of my husband’s voice. The lens he’s used to seeing instead of my face is greeted by a ‘thumbs up’ and then a laugh in response to something from his brothers. I hope my camera was able to capture this. This cool stream of significant moments. This morning of lasts and firsts. Of finishing and beginning again. I want to share these images with anyone who will bear with me, just as I have for the past 22 years.

He shakes some hands and returns to his seat. How did time pass? How is it that my son is holding a maroon diploma embossed with gold lettering in front of his chest, smiling so that I can take his picture? How is it not a delightful painting still moist from strokes of color thoughtfully applied at a preschool table? How is he not standing shoulder to shoulder with eighth grade buddies, clowning in front of my camera? How is he not in a rented suit, corsage in hand, awkward and impatient while I click away before prom? And in a few years, as I watch another college diploma handed to a different son, I will wonder again, as every mother does, how my children grew up so quickly.

Don’t think for a moment it’s escaped me how the markers in my son’s lives have also been markers in my own. With each stage of their growth, I have grown too. Sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Sometimes without my permission. I didn’t know when I signed up for this job that it would require me to learn new skills so often. Years have passed in a pattern of phases—as soon as I became comfortable with one phase, a new phase would quietly move in and there I would be, stretching alongside each of them, my current skill set seemingly obsolete. I would remain puzzled for a few days, then head to a bookstore or a friend’s house to learn and compare stories. To become validated with the experiences of others.

And there I was, when I realized my path was about to take another turn. The empty nest loomed. Uncomfortable and without my permission. Would I soon become irrelevant? Downsized? Outsourced? Unnecessary? These were the same questions I had when each of them began kindergarten for the first time. I wondered then what I would do as the requirements of my day changed. Fortunately, there was plenty, I just had to adjust my schedule a bit.

As my boys leave home one by one, I will set my priorities the same way I always have. I am still their parent; still responsible for being an example to them. I have a few passions I plan to dive into more fully when the time is right. I choose to both look and move forward. Although my main job has shifted, taken another somewhat jolting turn, it has not ceased to exist. The boys and I are still walking an unfinished road together, and I expect, as I have for the past years, that I’m going to really enjoy it.

“Hey!” I’m trying to get his attention. A few more clicks of the shutter. You did it!

About the Author

Margaret Dewilliam Horton

Margaret Dewilliam Horton is a writer, photographer and mom who loves spending time with her husband and three sons, all of whom she thinks are funny. You can see more of her work on her website .

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