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Johnny Jones, 21 August 1991

Bryan to RiceI thought about nesting first on our honeymoon. I remember how, although we were having a great time, I looked forward to getting back to our apartment to cook and clean for my husband. It's not that I thought cleaning was glamorous; I'm afraid housekeeping has never been my forte. Instead, I thought of daily tasks as a way of sharing our life and love.

The next time I thought about nesting was when we were expecting babies. The last trimester I got a powerful urge to decorate - something I normally do only of necessity and under duress. I haunt book stores, not furniture outlets, normally. But in preparation for babies I changed. Fabric stores and pom poms seemed fascinating. We made Bryan's room like the outdoors; short green carpeting (for grass), blue ceiling (for sky), and huge stickers of animals, trees, and flowers. I wanted to paint white clouds on the blue ceiling, but didn't know how.

I made the curtains; they had an awning stretched out over cafes underneath, blue print to match the ceiling. It looked great - but I could never have thought of it under normal circumstances.

What's more extraordinary about all this was that we moved to Tucson, two months before Bryan was born there. I was spinning around like a top. I started redoing the cabinets until my obstetrician said I couldn't use the products to strip them. By then they were enough of a mess that Chip had to finish them.

Now I'm thinking of nesting again - this time, of a baby bird leaving the nest to fly away. This mother bird could not bear to have him fly away on a plane; instead, we're driving him to Houston. By the time you read this, we will be on the road. An era of our lives will be ended.

There is poignance in a close family. Each day last week I couldn't help thinking, "This is Bryan's last Thursday at home...his last weekend...his last Tuesday." I think of each day as precious. We are taking more time for things together.

On the shady trails through the trees at St. Joe State Park we sped along on our bicycles. We took turns riding in pairs our last Saturday together. When it was my turn with Bryan, I asked him about all the advice he had received. "How much of it will be useful?" I asked him.

Just like an engineer, he replied, "I'll have to get down there to know."

As we crossed wooden bridges and saw the old Federal Mill and headframe, I couldn't help telling him, "You know you'll have more fun things than you can do." He's already planning to join the MOB (the marching band), a Bible study group, and maybe the newspaper staff, among other things. "You'll have to make some decisions, set some priorities."

"I'm looking forward to the decisions," he replied.

Good. He and Amy took off together for the last part of the bicycle trail. They stopped at overlooks where motorcycles buzzed through old tailings. Chip and I watched them go, a prophecy of things to come. We must let our little birds fly away.

Everyone who has had a child leave tells me things will never be the same. I'm sure they are right. Yes, I plan to shed tears. But would I have been less involved to spare myself the pain? Not on your life. I hope to smile through my tears, knowing I have done my best. Before many years, our nest will be empty - but never really empty. Our home will always be filled with the shadows of the love we shared with our children. Maybe that counts for a full nest, not an empty one. We'll see.