The number one question posed to us this summer is, “What are you going to do?”
It’s been asked by friends and guests alike, upon learning that both our sons would be gone for the entire summer. It’s fun to watch the expressions on people’s faces when they begin to process the information: We’re going to be without our children, and we’re still young enough to do something about it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Maybe I should say that not everybody has THAT reaction. Many people express dismay: “You’re going to be all alone, without your children, this summer?” Then: “What are you going to do?”
The short answer is that we’re going to do exactly what we’ve done for the previous twelve summers: work our tails off. As evidence I present the recent stretch of 21 days without a minute off. On Monday, we finally had what Chantal refers to as a “jammie morning”: that’s a morning where she can stay in her jammies and drink her coffee and act like a rational human who hasn’t dedicated her life to innkeeping.
But back to the empty nest: Number One Son, Seamus, is in France for the summer. Specifically, he’s working at a resort called Pierre et Vacances in Grospierre, which is south of Lyon, in the Ardeches region. He’s living on his own, in an apartment with roommates, and to be honest, he’s not a burden when he’s here. He’s about as independent as a kid can be, self-motivated, responsible, etc. He turns up for meals and car keys, and he always calls when he’s going to be late.
Number Two Son, Brendan, is in Maine for the summer. He’s attending the New England Music Camp, and studying tuba with one of the coolest tuba instructors I’ve ever met. Brian Edwards brings both youth and experience to the task, and we’re lucky that Brendan will be studying under someone with extensive music education experience, as well as professional chops.
So with both boys (I should say young men; though they’ll always be my “lads,” they’re quite capable of taking care of themselves) away, we’re left on our own. But it doesn’t feel that different. The work is still here, even more than in the past. In the summer, the boys had kept busy: last year Seamus took a chemistry course at Johnson State College, and Brendan was away at camp for several weeks.
Here’s where we miss them: dinner. Without two gaping maws to feed (“Is it snack time yet?” Or, “Is it time for between snack yet?” Or, “What’s for dinner, and when will it be ready?”), we lose our compass heading a bit. Chantal has produced six home cooked dinners a week for nearly two decades, and she’s evolved a certain shopping and cooking style. That’s all been abandoned. Now it’s just the two of us, and the will to produce full-blown dinners is not what it was. For example, when I came home from teaching the other night, dinner was two microwaved sweet potatoes with home made blue cheese dressing.