Empty Nests

My four-week stint (or eight, depending on how you look at it) of experiencing unemployment has come to an end. I just had my first day back at work. The Hummingbird School has survived its own initial incompetence in crisis management, and starting Monday, (most of) the kids will be coming back. To comply with all the requirements set by the government and school board, we had to prepare a whole new physical environment in the classrooms – new nests, so to speak. Gone are the couches for lounging and the big carpets where we sat for circle discussions. Gone are the balls to play sports with during the recess. Gone are all the chairs in the small kitchen. Gone are the Montessori materials that get passed from hand to hand or are not conducive to being disinfected. Gone are the glasses and pitchers of water in the classrooms. Gone are the computer stations for common use. Gone are the musical instruments and board games. Instead, the room is filled with socially distanced, individual desks where the students will sit for most of the morning. In the front of the class there is a space for me to stay put and – for the first time in my career – teach lecture-style to a captive audience.

We’ve divided the students into 4 groups of roughly 10 kids apiece. Two of the four will come each day on an alternating schedule and each group will have it`s own entrance into the school. The ones who will be filling this empty classroom will disembark from their school buses in masks, enter the building, and immediately wash their hands before going to the classroom. They will take a seat and only then remove the mask.

I confess that I feel uneasy in more ways than one about these first steps into the new normal. While planning with my team members, we talked about whether it was a good idea to assign yet another text about their experiences in the lockdown and distance learning. I suggested that the kids reread the reports they handed in near the start and then write about what changed over time. In my case, I worried about feeling confined at first. Now at the end, I find I don’t really like the idea of leaving the house if I don’t absolutely have to.

I wonder if this feeling is normal. Clearly, I have had it easy. Between my spacious house and big garden, my family situation and hermit genes, it’s not like it has been hell. I’ve honestly enjoyed having my whole family around me, not to mention so much time that I stopped monitoring its passing. (“What day is it today?”) I could have continued on like this indefinitely.

But this is not where we are at here in Austria, so I guess it is time for me to come out of my hiding place. The rest of my household is doing so too (if somewhat more eagerly than me).

Whereas the school nest shown above is about to be filled up, my home one is emptying out. Last week, our refugee son moved to another village to be near his brother. The plan is for him to transfer to a school in Graz for his last year. (There is a long story behind these decisions that I won’t get into here. I will only say that I hope he will be happier and more productive with this new living situation.) Yesterday, my elder daughter moved back to her apartment in Graz after two months with us. She took my daily concerts with her. That leaves just one – my youngest daughter – who will be taking her graduation exams starting a week from now. Her original plan for a work/travel gap year got nixed by Corona, so she will be starting university in the fall and, of course, moving into the apartment with her sister.

It was while listening to a conversation between the daughters about decorating the place and the timing of Lily’s move, that the realization finally washed over me. They were talking July – or August at the latest. “Wait!” I thought, “It’s almost June already!” Too months from now, it will be just me and the husband and a whole lot of silence.

Somehow I thought “reopening” would feel different.


12 thoughts on “Empty Nests

  1. I have the same trepidation for returning to a normal life but then, I can be stubborn and not go out for as long as it takes for me to feel comfortable (not nearly there yet). Your situation is a little unnerving because those little tikes go home to big people and you don’t know who is masquerading about with the virus sans symptoms. Please stay safe, friend. I will miss your time in quarantine. You did some great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Alison! It has been nice having more time for the blog and especially being in more frequent contact with you. I do worry a bit about returning to the Germ Factory – we have our share of anti-vacsers and conspiracy theorists in our ranks. I also lost a lot of trust in the parents over the course of our school crisis. But I have missed the kids. And the curve has been flattened here down to near zero. And my bathrobe really needs laundering.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. School at Hummingbird sounds much less cozy than before, very regimented. I hope the kids (and teachers!) will adjust. I like your idea about the kids reviewing their old essays and commenting on how their feelings have changed over the past few months. “I don’t really like the idea of leaving the house if I don’t absolutely have to.” That is true for me, too. I suppose most businesses can’t open until the schools do, but it’s unfortunate you and your students will be among the first thrown into the grand re-opening experiment. How long until summer vacation? And the looming empty nest? Seems 2020 has been nothing but tumult and adjustment for you. But I know you’ll be OK. You are smart, resilient, and have a talent for crocheting evil penguins. What else do you need? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joan. Actually, schools were not first on the list in the reopening plans – a lot of businesses came first. I think school reopenings might have been pushed up in the schedule because homeschooling did NOT work well for a whole lot of kids. Which you will read about in my latest post, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Last Spring, I discovered by some white droplets on my car, that a Mother Robin had decided to build a nest on top of the Garage Door Opener Motor. At first I thought to move it, I mean how can that be a good spot for raising the young’uns, with the Garage Door opening and closing at least 4 times a day between my Wife and Myself?
    I decided to just let it be, and then without realizing it, found myself checking on the nest’s condition every day (When Mom was away). I even brought out the ladder to take some pictures of the eggs, finally rewarded with a pic of the little beaks that began to show above the edge of the nest.
    One day the nest was empty. I knew it must happen, yet it saddened me the time was over….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Of all that changes, the last one is going to be the hardest on you. You fought so many years for finally being able to get them and now they are almost out of the house. Was it not just a moment ago, they started filling the house with their lovely presences….


  5. I’m with you on being a hermit and the joy of not monitoring time as it passes. It’s so freeing to not have to care 🙂 Best to you, remember to breathe


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