Back-to-School & My Empty Table Syndrome

Back-to-School & My Empty Table Syndrome
Posed by a professional model.

By Nicole Harding

Not sure how it happened. It sort of crept up on me and has stayed like the flu. You know, it’s bad but maybe one more day and it will fix itself.

But it hasn’t.

I know how it started. Schedules. More to do. More places to be. Friends. Events. Work for me, him, the boys–who are now young men.

Dinner? I texted on my 2-hour commute home. “I’m good” says the husband, with a haircut before a meeting and then the night shift.

“Grabbing something! Love ya!” texted the oldest on his way from one job to the next.

“Pizza at my boy’s house” says the baby who is driving a car and driving me crazy with worry.

And so I’m grabbing a coffee and a soft pretzel and the only thing on my beautiful refinished table when I get in from my commute is my purse. And isn’t that bad luck?

I think back to my own childhood and my memory tells me there was less money, things, sure, but not time.

My mother worked in a factory for 35 years and aside from one or two rare instances there was a hot meal on the table every night. Yet my memory says we had less.

That chicken breast, don’t touch it. It was for Mom. “Damn it,” she would say, “I worked hard for that.” Legs and thighs were for us.

No meat in the freezer? She made breakfast for dinner flawlessly, as if she had planned for it all week.

Canned, frozen, it didn’t matter, a starch and a vegetable. Every. Single. Night.

And my memory says we had less.

“What did you do in school today?” my mom would ask the table, with a Newport cigarette hanging from the right side of her mouth. And with her forehead lined like she really wanted to know or had a lot on her mind.

Probably the latter.

“Huh?” my brother was quick to reply. “Say, huh again and get smacked ok. You heard me!,” Mom responded. “What did you learn?” And even though the tone was tough, the lines eased from her forehead and for a short time, we had all of her attention.

I sat at that table for years, dining room table cramped into an eat-in kitchen. That table was so big that one side was against the wall and basically unused. But it was beautiful, covered of course with custom padding and 3 cloths so it wouldn’t be ruined.

We didn’t see it to enjoy it, but we knew about it. And as the years passed my answers to her question, what did you learn, may have gone over her head, but we were happy to answer. Disappointed if not asked.

And my memory says we had less.

So it is now that that I am heading into back-to-school season, no more yellow buses for me. Doctor Daughter is many states away working so much that a phone call is like a national holiday. My oldest boy is working two jobs.  My baby boy commutes to the local college and well, I don’t have empty nest syndrome. I have empty table syndrome.

Somehow I have been okay with having more in the freezer and no one at my table. I am saddened by this. But not for long.

Join me in my call to action: As many prepare to fall back with our clocks and the season, fall forward with me into your family. Even with your drop offs, and pick-ups, and drive-thrus, schedule that sit down dinner. Ask that famous, “What did you learn today?” question.

Be more about being and less about doing.

I know for sure I am going to try.

Like now.

Real talk!

Follow Nicole on twitter @RealTalkNic

Follow Nicole on twitter @RealTalkNic

Nicole Harding is an expert in leadership development, a wife and mother, who is focused on spreading positivity, one conversation, one home project, and one dynamite deal at a time. Follow her on Twitter @RealTalkNic.

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