“What do you want for Christmas?” my son asked me over dinner, the other night.
“Yeah, what do you want, Mom?” my daughter chimed in.
At times like these, I usually give a “selfless mom” pat answer like, “All I want is to be with my family, enjoying your company and our time together.” You know, the typical hogwash.
This year, I decided to answer the question honestly.
“I’d like some warm socks and new earrings,” I declared.
“That’s easy,” my son quipped.
“Most doable,” my daughter dittoed.
“But wait,” I added. “There’s more. A caveat, if you will.”
They were all ears, but only because their mouths were full of chicken.
“I would like three or four identical pairs of SmartWool socks and silver hoop earrings that I — and I alone — will wear forever.”
“Huh?!” they muttered, in unison.
“I want socks that won’t mysteriously find their way into other family members’ apartments and earrings that can’t be quote-unquote borrowed without my permission.”
“You can’t be talking about me,” my son said. My daughter hung her head, sheepishly.
“I’m not naming names,” I replied. “But both of you have a history of giving me gifts that you yourselves covet and end up owning: Bluegrass CDs, DVDs, fancy corkscrews, polar fleece lap blankets, jewelry, socks. Our feet aren’t that far apart in size, my son, and I know how you love SmartWool.”
Let me digress and state for the record that I think it’s OK — if all parties agree — for young adult children to boomerang temporarily back to the nest — emphasis on “temporarily” — while they get their financial houses in order.
Times are tough and, the stock market recovery notwithstanding, the recession isn’t over. There were starts and false starts in my own young adulthood. Sometimes it’s two steps forward — one step back. I get that, and I’m good with it.
Besides, the 18 days this month when we had BOTH young adults under our roof (while son was between subleases and daughter searched for affordable digs allowing dogs) were actually enjoyable. Laughter-filled dinners at the dining room table, “Sex and the City” reruns CONSTANTLY on TV (some of those scenes, you really don’t want to watch with your kids — I don’t care how old they are), Thai food leftovers in Styrofoam boxes stacked high in the fridge ... if that’s not a former empty-nester’s idea of heaven, I don’t know what is.
But, heaven rapidly turns to hell when the kids start “borrowing” your stuff. (For the record, this happens when they have their own places, too. You can’t win ... unless they move to a foreign land.)
One morning, you wake up, throw on an all-black ensemble for work, only to discover your favorite turquoise necklace is mysteriously missing from your jewelry box because someone wore it to the bars the night before and failed to return it. Or, thinking you’re alone, you step out of the shower, naked and dripping wet, only to find your daughter at the vanity, putting on her makeup because “I’m out of mascara and the light is so much better down here.”
Then, you’ll notice a bottle of wine missing from the rack or a cooler gone from the garage. Your husband is minus a few tools, maybe his bicycle, and you don’t know whether to call the police or your son who can’t hear his cell phone because he’s listening to your iPod.
Scarves disappear, vodka levels drop drastically in the bottle, a barbecue grill goes AWOL.
Soon, you stop searching for things you’ve misplaced because you assume the adult kids have “borrowed” them. Accusations fly:
“Did you take my razor again?”
“How many times have I got to tell you — BUY YOUR OWN CONDITIONER!”
“What did you do with the vacuum cleaner?!” (OK, that one would never happen. Wishful thinking, on my part.)
Back to the dining room table ...
“ ... and that’s what I want for Christmas,” I continued. “Earrings and socks that are mine — all mine — plus a solemn vow never to “borrow” my things — or your father’s things — ever again.”
They looked at me, then at each other.
“Sure, Mom,” my daughter said. “Now, can I have my bracelet back? The one you ‘borrowed’ two weeks ago?”
“Yeah,” my son piped up, “And, when you get a chance, I could use my martini shaker. I move out tomorrow.”
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at can be reached at 832-6319.