Empty Nest, White Sky

empty nest in apple tree

When I think back on this summer, I’m going to remember the sky. I’ve taken more than five-hundred pictures since the first of May, and not one of them features a blue Kansas sky. If it wasn’t outright raining, the sky stayed white.

These days, the empty nest often comes up in conversation. Many of my friends are going through that difficult transition. I sympathize, though my youngest is only fifteen, because our transition has already begun.

See, the thing nobody tells you is that the leaving starts long before the child moves out. “Be a leader,” we say, and he is, and he spends lots of time with his scout troop. “Get a job,” we urge, and she does, and the manager says, “She’s doing a great job,” and schedules her for more hours. I have three teenagers. Sometimes the silence at home is deafening.

One stark white day, tired of the silence, I snatched up my camera and went looking for adventure. I wanted to find the French Bee bakery, which I’d heard about on a Facebook forum called Kansas City Eats. I gathered that it was pretty far away, somewhere in northwest Lenexa, but I didn’t mind. I was in the mood for a drive.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find the place. It wasn’t where I thought it was, so I went somewhere else, and it wasn’t there either. I needed a GPS or a better plan. I had neither.

Determined to use my camera, I drove to Lenexa’s tiny historic district by the railroad tracks.  Surely something in the short row of false-fronted shops would call my name. I wanted something smart or beautiful or restored.

Instead I found forgotten….

Lenexa Kansas grain elevatorAbandoned….

Rusty nails beside Lenexa train tracksMelancholy.

Downtown Lenexa Kansas Train TracksI drove home as clouds filled the sky, gray against the white.

DSCN0592At home, a rumble of thunder led me to my front porch. Across the street, neighbors stood inside their garage, waiting for the show. Lightning flashed, and the hair on my arm stood up. A thunderclap shook the ground beneath my feet. The rain came slowly at first, great brown blotches on the dry sidewalk. The wind blew droplets under the porch roof, cooling my legs. When drops turned to torrents, I slipped inside.

My daughter looked up from typing her summer English assignment. “Didn’t you get my text?”

I looked at my phone and found a silent, worried scream. “MOM! COME BACK INSIDE! THERE WAS NO PAUSE BETWEEN THE LIGHTNING AND THE THUNDER!”

I want to say the sky turned blue after the storm. I’d throw in the sun and a rainbow or two if I could. Wouldn’t that tie things up with a bow? But I didn’t look at the sky when the rain stopped. I was too busy making dinner for my family.

The nest isn’t empty yet.


  1. LOVELY … message as well as photos!
    My youngest moved out of the house and into her own apartment three months after graduating high school.
    We taught our children to be independent… and they are… and our nest has been empty since 2011.
    I know you are savoring these days 🙂

  2. Beautiful commentary, Jane! The empty nest is usually a conundrum of bittersweet pride in who our children have become and all the wonderful accomplishments they have ahead of them. And yet – the silence. This is one reason why I write at night. At least the silence is broken by the voices of characters in my head.

    • I’ve taken to writing with music as a backdrop, Rebecca. Youtube is filled with long classical recordings that run in an endless loop. I use Chopin and Liszt as inspiration for Lottie, my concert pianist.

  3. […] In my last post I shared my fruitless quest for the French Bee bakery. This week I went in search of the French Bee again, and this time I found it! Betsy and I tried their lunch menu this week. (It pays to be the last kid at home after school starts.) […]

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