Tag Archives: empty nest

Promises, a new novel by Casey Curry

Casey Curry, author
Casey Curry, author

Let me introduce you to, Casey Curry, wife, mother, and educator who has just published her first novel, Promises.  Curry is a master at weaving together fragile family alliances and with four aspiring African American daughters growing up in a military family all over the world, Curry has tons of material to not disappoint her readers.  Like her protagonist, Pamela Sloan, Curry is a woman over 50, and the wife of a naval officer who takes us on a thirty year journey full of family secrets and promises.

I mention that the daughters are African American because it was that one fact alone that piqued my interest enough to read the book.  It made me realize how little I knew about Black families in our military.  Truth is, I had not read much about military families in general, and must confess, had only seen films about families coping with war and death as a young adult – starting with WWII, Viet-Nam, and now Iraq.  Films or TV series that stand out are: Coming Home (1978); MASH (the 70’s); even Hogan’s Heroes from the 60’s and all those had an all white cast – or at least that’s how I remember it.  It wasn’t really until Glory (1989) and Red Tails in 2012 that Hollywood portrayed African American families in the military.

Casey Promises CoverSo, Curry’s book allowed me to enter a world I knew very little about.  What did I find?  Having grown up with two sisters, I found the relationship between the siblings to be not all that different from my own EXCEPT mine didn’t involve military espionage, family sacrifices, or vacationing on the Vineyard.  Interwoven between the daughters’ stories is Pamela’s story, their mother whose past is nothing like her daughters.  Raised by a father because her mother was either absent or should’ve been, Pam managed to marry well while her half-sister struggled as a poor single mother with an ungrateful and selfish daughter.  The contrast between Pamela’s tight knit family and her sister’s rather sad existence with her spoiled daughter is significant and what stories are made of.

I think Casey’s story will resonate not only with readers who have struggled with an empty nest or who are military wives but with women of all ages who have struggled to protect their family.  The whole time I was reading Promises, I kept thinking this would make the perfect Lifetime channel movie – one of my guilty late night pleasures.

Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida where she teaches poetry and fiction to high school students. She holds a B.A. from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and M.Ed. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a 2012-2013 National Arts Teachers Fellowship (NATF) winner. The novel, Promises is her second book, and was born out of the NATF project, formerly funded by The Surdna Foundation. Ms. Curry is married to a retired Naval Officer and is the mother of three adult daughters. Her youngest daughter, Tori Rose, was the inspiration for her first book, I Remember You Today, and died of a brainstem tumor at the age of three.

Taking my Youngest Daughter to College

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JANE

 

Yesterday we drove our youngest daughter, Josie, to Virginia to start college.  It was an emotional day for me.  I’m not saying only bad emotions were involved.  It was just an emotional day.

The good emotions included excitement that she is attending my much-beloved alma mater, Randolph College (formerly and forever known by me as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College—to hell with the fact that it is now co-ed!), relief that she has a great roommate, and happiness that the college seems to be the same great place, full of brilliant professors and caring people, that I remember.

Main Hall, Randolph College
Main Hall, Randolph College

Also, there was gratitude that her sister and brother went with us on the trip and that her other sister and her husband,  who couldn’t come because of work, kept in touch by text throughout the day!  I think they all wanted to make sure their baby sister was going to be all right, and it touched my heart.

Finally, there was the pleasure of witnessing Josie finding her way in a new environment and seeing that she will be fine without me.  Sometimes it helps to see our kids in different settings, just to be reminded of how much they make us proud.

Before you are overwhelmed with my sappiness, let me admit there was also the pure joy of realizing that I no longer have to prepare a single school lunch or attend a single Parents’ Night at our local high school ever again!

oops50 women
Josie (R) and her wonderful friend Nora (L) in Pittsburgh at the Phipps Conservatory

So, that’ was the good stuff.  There were also bad emotions, or I guess I should say “difficult” ones, as in the ones that made me want to curl up in the fetal position and sleep for about 48 hours.

First of all, the experience of actually being a parent, bringing my daughter to college, at my very own campus was somewhat surreal, especially considering the fact that all the people who taught me such wonderful topics as “The Poetry of W. H. Auden” or “Social Stratification Systems” or “German History before 1900” (yes, a liberal arts curriculum) are dead.  It’s strange enough to walk around a campus and see no students you recognize but it’s past bizarre to see a bunch of young upstarts pretending to be professors, sitting in all my professors’ offices.  It was a little like being in a Twilight Zone episode involving, perhaps, time travel and robots.

Secondly,  I have to say, it is really, really hard to say goodbye to your youngest child, the last one leaving the nest.  It doesn’t matter that your logical brain says, “she’ll be back for fall break,” or “but you have your oldest daughter and her husband back at home with you at the moment, so the house won’t even really be empty for another few months.”  None of that apparently weighs in heavily enough to balance out the overwhelming feeling at the pit of your stomach: “My baby is all grown up!  How in the world did that happen so soon?”

(There was also, I admit, a self-centered, nagging feeling of fear and depression that, damn, I must be really old if Josie is old enough to go to college, but we’ll ignore that one for now.)

I can sum up the whole experience this way:  I am really happy that my girl is off to college, and I am thrilled that she was able to walk off confidently to her new dorm room, with only a couple tears in her eyes, but I am also heavily burdened at the moment with the grief that comes from realizing my youngest child is leaving home, officially, and probably for good.  Hold on, you say, she’ll be home for Christmas and spring break and summer.  What are you bitching and moaning about?  Here’s the reality:  once they walk out that door to go to college, they never really come home again, not in the way you want them to.  Not in an everyday, being there and belonging there sort of way, where they can take their time to grow up, since you’ve got all the time in the world to go on vacations together, eat food at the same table, plan what color to paint their room.  Yes, they come back, but only in a visiting their parents sort of way, where you get a temporary hold on their time, nothing permanent.  You may be able to check out that book for a few weeks, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it will ever be part of your library again!

So, this whole “empty nest” thing that I thought would never have reality in my world,  is real.  Big time.  And so I’m dealing with some rough, emotional stuff at the moment.  As a result, I may not be in the best shape for a while.

This is, however, only Day One of this new phase.  I’m sure I’ll be much better, real soon. Come a week or two, I’ll be able to walk in her room without crying!  And, after some more time,  I’ll only weep uncontrollably on those days when she (like her sisters and brother) leaves again, after a visit, to go back to school/new home/new job/whatever.  In the meantime, I’ll just curl up tonight in her room and bury my face in her pillow for comfort!

Oops, I forgot:  she took that with her, too!

Families and Children: On Teenagers

Jane

I need to rant today!  All four of our kids are home this summer.  All four of our kids are teenagers–or close enough for government work!  The youngest is 14, the oldest 23.  Here’s the deal:  they are all in transitional stages.  One is finishing up college by going to summer school.  One is doing a gap year from college and getting ready to embark on an adventure in Mexico.  One is starting college in the fall.  One is starting high school in the fall.  So all 4 of them are in an antsy, restless stage, wondering if their new life will be ok, wondering if they’ll be content and happy, wondering, off and on,  how they can stand to live with their parents without shooting them in their sleep!  It’s a lot of fun.  They go back and forth between unbelievable sweetness–the kind that brings tears to your eyes–and complete irritability with everything parental. 

Mostly, since they all 4 see their freedom coming to an end in the fall, they are determined to take full advantage of it now–and I mean full advantage, in the way that only teenagers can.  They want every hour of every day to be filled with interesting activity.  So they stay up as long as possible every night and sleep all hours of the day, while working whenever they can fit it in (my son, for instance, has a job that starts at 9 p.m. and goes until 4 a.m.!) and trying to see all their friends as often as possible (when they are not facebooking them or texting them). 

One of the results of this restless, live-for-today behavior is that we never know ahead of time  1) how many mouths will need to be fed at the dinner table 2) where each of them will be spending the night (except for our 14-year-old, thank goodness!) 3) when/if they will get their respective forms filled out for their respective financial aid, job applications, applications to programs, etc. and 4) if we can survive on sleep deprivation caused by loud, raucous laughter at 4 a.m. in the downstairs guest bedroom (on the good nights, when they bring their friends to sleep at our house).   Mostly, I’m turning into a crazy woman who thinks it’s 6 a.m. when it’s 2 and yells down the stairs at a room full of kids:  “Everyone go to bed NOW!”  Continue reading Families and Children: On Teenagers

A Meditation on Children Going Off to College

janeonswing

Jane

Every August, I think I’m prepared for it.  After all, the house has been a mess all summer with their cartons full of school books, their various computers and printers,  and their mini-fridges.  But then, every August, I have to face the reality that my older children are no longer mine, come the 25th of August,  and I get to turn back into a non-speaking, uninvolved hose that feeds money to them on a weekly/monthly basis, for their latest bookstore bill, parking sticker,  or Art History field trip to the great museums of New York.  I no longer know what they’re doing on Saturday night (thank God!).  Unless they happen to call me up and tell me, I don’t know if they are happy or sad or getting sick or anything.  I know of people who didn’t even realize that their son/daughter had never attended a single class at their college of choice until they went to Parents’ Weekend!  Parents don’t get to be involved in any structured way in the whole process of choosing what classes they take (unless you count paying for those classes).  I am happy to say that I have no role in their choice of clothing! But I also don’t get to ask questions about most subjects without their permission, and  I don’t get a copy of their grades, unless they choose to share them with me. The only thing I have reasonable access to is the tuition bill. There’s a surprise! Continue reading A Meditation on Children Going Off to College