When I was 9 1/2 months pregnant with my son, my next door neighbor caught me outside doing the unthinkable. I was standing on a rickety kitchen chair washing the ceiling of my screened-in porch. She rushed over in a panic, shouting, "What do you think you are doing?!" I calmly replied, "Cleaning." Such is the mentality of a woman in the "nesting" stage of pregnancy. Nesting is the term given to the time in a pregnancy when an expectant mother, be she cat, squirrel, or human, begins to prepare the physical world outside her body for the new baby. In us human mothers, it often involves a ridiculous amount of washing, scouring, folding, sorting, rewashing, and refolding. Sometimes, as in my case, the compulsion to sanitize every inch of living space is so strong that we do something fool-hardy. After all, what if my baby took a notion to crawl on the porch ceiling, and I hadn't properly sterilized it ahead of time?
Twenty-three years have passed, and I never had the urge to clean again. Of course, for practical reasons, like not wanting to wade through piles of dog hair or bath in tubs of mud, I do attempt to maintain a dirt-free environment. But, the hormonal drive that occurs during nesting has never repeated itself. That is until a few weeks ago when my son moved out of the house and into his first apartment.
The first thing I noted about his new place, besides that it was designed for Tom Thumb, was that the former tenant had been a smoker. Oh, that would not do! Old tobacco spores making their way into my son's lungs? Not on this mother's watch! Out came the jumbo-sized bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap, a pile of rags, a bucket, and lots of hot water. I scrubbed every wall, door, shelf, piece of woodwork. While my nephew, husband, and son did the heavy lifting of the various pieces of apartment furniture, I doused the bathroom with bleach. While the electronics were set up and technology issues resolved, I did the laundry and rearranged cupboards. I was this close to color-coding his closet when my husband suggested it "WAS TIME TO GO." Party pooper.
Back at our newly empty nest, I went upstairs to take a sentimental journey through our son's former bedroom, his computer room, his bath. That's when the other motherly instinct flicked on. The one that allows mama birds to coldly kick their chicks out of the nest without so much as a "Stop over for dinner tomorrow! We're having worms!" The moment I walked through those rooms and saw the potential for alternate uses, I grabbed a stack of trash bags and started clearing out my son's things ONCE AND FOR ALL! His bedroom? A spare room for company but a writing room for me. The computer room? Our new stereo room. The bath? Oh, I have big plans for that. Imagine me soaking in bubble-filled tub, wine glass in hand, watching The Real Housewives of Someplace or Other on a 20 inch flat screen mounted just above the toilet (which will have a new seat that will NEVER be left up again.)
The next day, as hubs and I were still plotting our new domains, the son dropped in to pick up more of his things. "How was your first night in your new place?" we asked in hopeful unison. "Great!" he replied. "But...well, I really hope I can pay all my bills. I worry about that." Dead silence. Then, the hubs said in a quiet yet commanding tone, "Well then, you might have to get a second job." *lightbulb!* Apparently, it's not the mamas but, rather, the papa birds out there on the lawns squawking at their youngsters to fly, fly away.
Anyway, now that I have made sure he can't catch ebola from the bathroom sink or tuberculosis from his heating vents, I am happy that my son has made a nest of his own. My hope is that he will use his new-found wings to find out how high and far he can soar while finding comfort in returning to his own space. And if he ever needs a lady to scrub his porch ceiling, he will know where to find her.