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“So, see you next week.”

Calmly, I replied, “Ya, see you soon.”

As soon as I hung up, I threw my fist in the air – Yippee!

When my last son prepared to leave home several months ago, I keep my emotions at bay. I would never want to dampen his sparkling excited eyes. Hired for a longed for job, each of his lithe steps conveyed his eagerness to be on his way.

As he enters his new stage, I enter mine. It is often called what to me is a ridiculous metaphor- empty nester.

I am not a bird.

Nor am I empty.

I am filled with memories.

I sent him off with a smile and a slightly tight hug. None of my sons knew that as I smiled and encouraged and waved, their life passed before my eyes:

Their first cry

That first laugh

Their first step

That first smile

The seemingly endless series of firsts that grounded them.

The saying that parents gift their children roots and wings once seemed a botched mixed metaphor to me.

Trees are rooted plants; birds are flying animals.

I’ve come to appreciate how two different phases of life demand two different metaphors.

We all need to be gifted roots and wings to live and to age well.


The first phase of firsts are rooted in family and understanding society.

The roots from the cedar trees in front of my house grew from a mere speck of seed. These roots spread, interlocking with other trees close by, forming an interconnected myriad of root pathways, like essential life relationships.

From within these rooted trees now comes trills of tiny black-headed chickadee birds.

They alight within its safe shelter, and there, place a nest.

Without these rooted trees, birthed chickadees could not wing away with confidence.

I have never been tempted to clip my children’s fledgling wings, even as tugs at their life roots tore and broke mine.


The second phase of firsts is entering in society and appreciating family.

Their first cry at experiencing a trip alone.

That first laugh at solving a challenge alone.

Their first step into their own apartment

That first smile at starting their career job.

Their endless series of firsts that flex and form their wings.

No matter how many children one has, there will be a time when the last one is gone, leaving the family home be-rift of children.

That is as it should be.

As I cleaned and vacuumed my son’s vacated room, I recalled a time he’d asked me what a bittersweet ending meant.

“It means that you are both happy and sad. Despite the joy in the ending, there remains some sadness and regret knowing that something has irrevocably changed.”

All new beginnings start with an ending. All endings are bittersweet.

Planting each of my son’s roots was easy. Roots stretched through times of conversation, trials and laughter, anchoring a deep abiding love between and with each child and their uniqueness.

Fluffing each son’s fledgling wings was harder. Wings unfurled, stretched and spread as I matched their enthusiasm for the flight, assisting with arranging details, de-cluttering, and detaching.

As we all do, in time each son will realize that while he loves flying with his un-clipped wings, there will always remain roots grounded confidently in a legacy of love and care.

Each lives in full assurance that he will alight within the shelter of rooted relationships.

In order to live and to age well, we all need roots interconnected in faithful relationships and full-fledged wings ready to fly into yet unknown adventures.


All of us need roots and wings.

Even those who took their first winged flight oh so long ago.