Boomerang Child No. 2 hurled herself out of our home and into her own place last week, ushering in a new era I’ve dubbed “Empty Nest, Part 3.” I know, it’s not very creative. But “Naked Days and Naked Nights” sounded unseemly, not to mention misleading.
(Confession: I stole the naked bit from my brother-in-law who, when the last of his three daughters left for college, stripped down to his birthday suit and walked through the house — just because he could — yelling, “Let the naked years begin!” Needless to say, I always call before I drop by their place. A pop-in could traumatize me for life.)
It’s been two years since our nest has been empty and, frankly, the first few nights felt weird.
“So, what do you want to do?” my husband asked from his chair.
“I dunno,” I replied from the couch. “Wanna watch me delete ‘Sex and the City’ reruns from the DVR?”
“OK,” he said. “Can I do some, too?”
We purged the saved programs and devoured our D.A.S.H. diet meals with wild abandon. Heck, we even jumped on the bed. (No, “jump” isn’t a euphemism. It’s been WAY too hot for that.)
I scoured my daughter’s bathroom for makeup left behind — jackpot!!! — and took inventory of my jewelry, scarves and shoes. (What can I say? My sweet pea’s a pilferer.)
Best of all, we locked the doors at 10 p.m., darkened the porch light and went to bed, knowing we wouldn’t be awakened by high heels clicking on the stairs at 3 a.m.
For four days, we did all the things we said we’d do when we were finally alone again.
Then, we got another dog.
I KNOW, RIGHT??!!
Seriously, I don’t know how it happened. Remember, I am the woman who never wanted to replace our first dog after he died three years ago.
“Too much responsibility. It’ll tie us down,” I argued. “Dogs shed and they drool. They don’t sleep late on Saturdays. And the piddling! We just replaced all our rugs!!”
Next thing I knew, we adopted Lucy, an irresistible cocker spaniel who, I’ll admit, turned out to be the world’s greatest canine in the history of dogkind.
Shouldn’t we have just quit while we were ahead?
I had the same arguments for the woman who approached me in a shop downtown the other day. Obviously responding to the giant SUCKER tattoo on my forehead, she showed me a photo of what would turn out to be the second-greatest canine in the history of dogkind: An adorable, if slightly kooky, Clumber spaniel named Dixie. She was desperate for a good home. Desperate, she said.
“Oh, but mine isn’t a GOOD home,” I said. “Our daughter moved out and my husband walks around naked all the time, screaming. Dixie could be traumatized for life.”
(OK. It wasn’t exactly the truth. But I didn’t exactly make it up, either.)
Undeterred, she emailed me the picture. Then, I made a fatal mistake: I forwarded it to my spouse.
“Think of what great company she’ll be for Lucy,” he said, gazing at Dixie’s big, sad, amber eyes. “She’s an empty-nester, too, you know. And she’s lonely, I can tell.”
(He can tell. Ha! I got three inches of my hair chopped off and he doesn’t even notice. Yet he observes a mood change in a mutt?)
“No, no, no, no, no,” I said, stomping my foot for emphasis. “What we need isn’t more responsibility. It’s less. That’s what empty-nesting is all about. What is it with you? Some kind of weird feng shui need to have four warm bodies in the house at all times?”
You already know who won that argument.
That was eight days ago. We now have two dog beds in the bedroom, two sets of bowls on the kitchen floor, two leashes in the mudroom and two rawhide bones on the family room rug. Did I mention Clumber spaniels are notorious shedders and prolific droolers?
But the two bitches, while not yet the best of friends, seem to be enjoying each other’s company. And Dixie does tend to fill the void left by our daughter in an oddly familiar way.
The other day, she stared trancelike at an old episode of “True Blood” on TV. Until my husband ran through the living room in the buff, yelling “Let the naked years begin!”