It’s an empty nest when parents leave

Purva Grover

It’s a strange feeling, one that I have been trying to identify for the last couple of years and failing at, miserably. Every winter, my parents come and visit me for a bit. Each year, after they leave, I sense the emptiness. I drop them to the airport and return home. I look around, everything looks the same, and yet it feels different.
When they’re around, the home wakes up with the aroma of tealeaves. The sight of the tea strainer (washed after being used, instantly) on the kitchen shelf reminds me of the home I grew up in. Dad smiles as I offer him wheat rusks with his tea. He knows that I don’t eat those. He smiles, for he knows we’ve stocked up the cupboard with things that mum and dad like. Has life come a full circle, I wonder, as I think of the days when I visited home from the hostel and was greeted with my favourite goodies!
When they’re here, evenings are peppered with jokes and anecdotes. Dad watches a lot of news and I notice how I enjoy merely sitting next to him. Rather, how everyone (visiting friends) joins in the discussions on politics.
We eat a lot of homemade pickles and chutneys and I observe how everyone (health conscious or not) keeps asking for more. Within days, mum familiarises herself with the aisles in the neighbourhood supermarkets. I notice how dad begins to enjoy a dinner of grilled veggies and soups. They even offer to put the clothes for a wash. Less than a week here, and they make ‘our’ routines part of ‘theirs’. And we begin to enjoy their presence, looking forward to the family time. I confess I wait for their WhatsApp message asking me when I’ll be back from office! I love the smiley emoticon they send when I tell them I am on my way. Back home, I too, wait for them to return, anxiously.
Today, as I sit on the couch and pen this down, I know that I am not upset that they have returned, even when I complain (always) that they should be staying longer. I am upset, for each time they fly back, my home feels empty. Perhaps, that’s how life works. Perhaps, what I am experiencing is the reverse of the empty nest syndrome. I begin to rearrange the furniture (moved to accommodate all of us in front of the telly, for watching classics ‘together’ is our night routine), rather put it back in its original spot. And whilst I do that, I secretly hope to find something that they would have left behind. A pair of slippers, socks or spectacles, may be. Anything. But well, they pack well.
My home will not feel the same for a couple of days and then things will return to normalcy. And with it, will begin my wait for my parents to return. With it, I will begin to wonder what all goodies will their suitcases hold for me the next time around! With it, I will begin to look forward to our movie time. Yes, our roles have reversed. For, it’s them, who’ve flown away from the nest this time.
—Courtesy Khaleej Times

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