The dictionary defines adjusting as “to achieve a psychological balance with regard to the changes in ones external environment”. Whether we ever had balanced psyches to begin with is up for debate but that is the definition. It wasn’t just that we were missing the kids, it was that the kids were missing. They were gone. It wasn’t just a sense of loss, it was feeling lost. We had spent our lives encouraging them to go. A gentle hand at the small of their backs, figuratively and literally, when they faltered or were uncertain. We had succeeded but that success was marked by their absence. We spent a lot of time talking about what to do to ease the sadness and find our balance again. If we had decided in the beginning to get together on Sundays and cook the meals we made when the kids were growing up, we would have been adjusting. But the familiar meals and the empty chairs around the table would have made for empty hearts. Our girls night out had always been a movie and dessert, a little break from the kids. We no longer needed a break from the kids. What we needed was a break from dwelling on how much we missed the sound of them in our homes. Adjusting wasn’t going to be enough.
Adapting is defined as “to change or modify to suit a new and different purpose”. By making Sundays our day to shop and cook together, we changed the dynamics of our weekends. We were excited to find and try new recipes; to shop in new stores, farmers markets and farms we found on Local Harvest. That excitement spilled over into our work week as we planned our Sundays. Cooking like this was new to us and we had to concentrate on those recipes. Truth be told, we re-read those recipes ten times over and still had to ask each other questions. But there was a lot of laughter in all that confusion. Instead of our usual girls night out, we drove two hours to buy fresh eggs and sat by the river at an old oyster house thinking about how a French style baked custard was going to taste with those beautiful fresh eggs. We found a butcher. We learned to make bread. We planned field trips to pick fresh blackberries, blueberries and peaches. We moved out of the kitchen and painted our living rooms, our kitchens and our bathrooms, even though it took us weeks instead of days and even though the paint tray fell off the ladder, not once, but three times. We accomplished things. Things still connected to home, hearth and the children but “changed and modified to suit a new and different purpose”. Maybe the secret was to fill the time we spent in sadness with new experiences and hold on to the time we spent celebrating the independence and success of our almost grown up children.
The kids would be coming home for breaks and in the summer. We’d fall in to happy and familiar patterns. They would share their new lives with us. We would share our adventures with them. Though we knew in our hearts that it was the beginning of a big transition, we began to realize that while we were no longer mommies, we were still moms and that would never change. Adjust or adapt. That was the choice. We adapted.
THE MENU FOR THE FIRST MEAL IN THE EMPTY NEST
Bolognese Sauce adapted from epicurious
We have tried, but we don’t remember the rest of the menu because we were stunned, that, on our first try, the bolognese was the best thing we’d ever ladled over pasta. Maybe, most important, this was before bread!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 slices thick cut bacon diced
- one cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrot
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 lb. ground chuck
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 14oz. canned beef broth
- 1 1/2 cups canned tomato puree
- 1 lb. pappardelle pasta
- freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat oil in heavy large pot on medium high heat. Add bacon saute until beginning to brown. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and thyme, saute 5 minutes. Add beef and pork, saute until brown and cooked through about 10 minutes. Add wine and bay leaves. Simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Add broth and tomato puree, reduce heat to medium low, simmer until sauce thickens, stirring often, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Boil pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring often. Drain, transfer to pot with sauce, toss, serve with grated parmesan.