We’ve all been checking in with each other, my safety net of friends. It’s good to hear how everyone else is, and to find that we are surviving as our kids are settling in to their college life.
For those of us who are still walking lightly in this new territory of the empty nest, I have a cure-all that does not involve wine or chocolate or naps.
It’s called a project.
A good project can bring new life to your battered soul (or it can batter your back, so choose your project carefully!) It can give you porpoise, (Sorry, I have my own mixed up vocabulary that you will have to get used to…more on this bit of quirkiness at another time.) and a reason for living. Making a plan, setting a goal and achieving it always makes me feel better about pretty much anything. For months and months I have been planning projects for when Punky goes to college. Most of them are large, like cleaning out closets, etc. Some are small. I began small.
My first project?
Spring/fall cleaning the aquarium.
When Punky was 4 years old, we moved from the only house she had known. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do well with change, and my first concern was what this move would do to our child. Of course I forgot how different we are. I’m overly sensitive and she’s a pretty darn strong gal. Still, I was sure it would traumatize her for life and she would never forgive us. I had visions of her one day in a shrink’s office telling them how it all began when her evil parents moved her from her original home.
To soften the change, we purchased an aquarium as a surprise for Punky. It was the first thing we set up when we moved into the new place, and was strategically located in her room across from her bed. It had dual purpose; it was what it was, and it was also a night-light. Indeed, it did help make that change a little easier for all of us.
Punky loved her aquarium and at night after reading time she would watch the fish swim until she dozed off. Once, she was watching the fish swim while I was reading to her. She interrupted me to tell me that one of them was giving birth. It was true!
More than once, we found her sitting in her little chair reading to the fish! She even showed them the pictures. Cute, huh?
The first Christmas that we had the aquarium, she found a pine cone in the yard, glued beads, a paper star and glitter to it, stuck it in a play-dough base, and sat it next to her fish. She even put sea shells and a couple of tiny “presents” under their tree.
We have moved 2 times since, carrying the aquarium with us. And I’m happy to say, Punky is a well adjusted kid and shows no sign of moving trauma.
The aquarium has had many residents over these 14 years. Right now we have two tenants, Pooey and Gucci Mane. Punky named the latter after a rap singer who can’t stay out of trouble. My great nephew A. named the other one for us.
It’s a strong name. Has a nice ring to it….
And sometimes we call him Mr. Pooey out of respect.
Pooey joined us after the untimely death of Soulja Boy, a sweet little Tetra fish.
I love the fish names that Punky has come up with. Here are some of my favorites:
Jesus and Mary (Obviously a Christmas addition, I was worried we’d be struck dead for letting our child name a fish Jesus, but we decided it was an honor to have something named after you, especially if done so by a sweet, innocent child. Besides, we used the Spanish pronunciation.)
Teddy P. (the plecostomus)
Angel and Candy (Sounds like strippers! Maybe they were the ones you could see through? Angel and Candy, the Guppy sisters.)
We had a couple of tiny frogs, and even had a couple of suicidal sharks (Not the big kind, of course.) who would leap out of the aquarium. One, I’m thinking our dog Sugar Bear ate, and one we didn’t find for a while. Don’t ask.
Anyway, we have had dozens of different inhabitants in our aquarium. And, as you can imagine, we have had many fish funerals in the backyard.
I know the neighbors have seen the 3 of us gathered in a small circle over a tiny grave and they have wondered if we were okay. Not in a caring way, but in a GEEZ those people are strange kind of way.
There have been times when we were all too busy to make funeral arrangements, so I would put the deceased in a baggie, and pop them in the freezer until we had time. It is a sobering thing to be grazing through the freezer in search of frozen blueberries and come upon one of our dear friends.
So, back to the project…
The thought of freezing a dead fish for 3 months, or another fish burial, without Punky here to preside, motivated me with my project. I noticed that the poor aquarium needed some attention. The neglect due to our crazy summer of getting Punky ready for college has wreaked havoc in the watery home of Pooey and Gucci. They were not happy swimming in muck.
You know it’s bad when you have to search for life before feeding.
I put Pooey and Gucci Mane in their temporary housing of a gold fish bowl. I bailed water, hauled everything out to the deck and proceeded to scrub and disassemble and reassemble the pump, filter and heater.
Ummm, I needed Sweetbuns help for this step. Seems that “mental pause” is leaving me unable to put things back together once I’ve taken them apart. At least that’s my excuse today.
Once everything was clean, we schlepped it back in the house and started the process of hauling and treating water, checking the temperature and all those other important aquarium duties.
Project #1 complete!
Mr. Pooey and Gucci Mane are doing well. They feel loved and are happy. I feel good for having helped them, and for completing a task.
So, is the act of staying busy what will keep us sane in this time of change?
If something as nasty as cleaning an aquarium can bring a rainbow of beautiful memories to mind, I think not.
I think there’s more to it.
While working on a project, your mind opens to all the memories and the history you share with your child and other loved ones. It’s a comforting thing. It’s like eating chocolate ice cream and having your thoughts go back to 2nd grade cafeteria treats.
These flash backs, or memories as you may choose to call them, help us realize that we have really had a good life of parenting.
Feel proud of what joys you have shared with your child!
Now, go get busy on a plan, and let me know how you are coping!