Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 09.15.15
Stanstead, Quebec


Almost Empty Nesting or, U-turns at the halfway house

We are now one child away from having an empty nest - - only it's not so much a nest. More like a temporary storage facility. If the imaginary volcano in our backyard were to erupt and spew hot ash over our lot in life, future archeologists would conclude that there were 3.89 people living in this house. They'd also wonder what kind of crazy people would let their cats outnumber them.

Our eldest has been out of the house for several years. In fact, Emily no longer has a room here to call her own. Just before she left for CEGEP, we were six people living in a four-bedroom house, so naturally, when she left, the youngest quickly filled the void. Nature hates a vacuum, almost as much as siblings hate a shared closet.

The middle two, however, have left in stages, studying away from home but living here either full-time or at least long enough to claim territory, a claim they establish by leaving balled up Kleenex on their bedroom floors. They can make basketball jump shots but they can't hit a garbage can five feet away.

This past spring, though, Katie and James signed a lease on an apartment in Lennoxville, where they are both attending school this fall. The apartment is located in the so-called "student ghetto," although I see the town is attempting to rebrand the area as the "student village." They've installed a classy sign on the corner along with some fancy landscaping. All the corner is missing is a student passed out at 4 a.m. and, voila!, brand established. As they say, it takes a village to burn a couch.

Our children signed their lease in May, even though school didn't start until the fall. This resulted in them having what amounted to two homes this past summer: ours for eating and laundry, theirs for accumulating beer bottles.

But since August, the two have been in Lennoxville more or less full time. The most immediate impact we've noticed is a significant reduction in our food budget. It's nice to once again have leftovers that make it past 10 p.m.

There is also less of their clutter. Sort of. Relics remain. It's a kind of trickle-down theory; slowly their possessions are trickling down to Lennoxville.

For example, there's this blender on our kitchen counter. On Monday, James ignored my suggestion that he take it that afternoon in our latest load to Lennoxville. It's his blender, after all. We gave it to him so he could make smoothies or concoct potions or liquefy his food in case he can't get the multiple meals, snacks, and snack-meals into his belly quickly enough. And yet, here it remains.

It'll get there eventually, I suppose, along with the posters and trophies and balled up socks here and dirty laundry stashed behind a door there - artefacts of the teenage epoch.

It's good they've moved on, for them and for us. We were beginning to feel like a halfway house. Besides, children in their fresh 20s do things that parents don't need or want to know, and blissful ignorance is much more difficult when puffy eyes the next morning tell all about the night before.

Thankfully, we're still close enough to attend James's basketball games or watch Katie further destroy her knees with rugby or fill up their fridge with groceries, which, you know, so much for reducing our food budget.

After all, it's possible that very soon they'll be living even further away, running their own lives, cluttering up their own homes. Next thing you know, they won't need us at all.

The other day, James left our house for work, zipping up the 55 for Ayer's Cliff. About five minutes later, the phone rang. "Can you bring me my dress shoes? I'm just past the flashing light and there's nowhere to turn around."

He was running late, so I grabbed the shoes and rushed up the autoroute until I saw his flashers along the side of the road. I pulled over and handed off the shoes. "Thanks," he said, smiling sheepishly, and drove on. I followed for a few hundred metres and then, checking for cops, made an illegal emergency-vehicles-only U-turn across the median. I headed back to our almost empty nest where the blender can remain for as long as it wants.