I first saw him in concert with my dad circa 1980. I loved his name. I didn’t know anyone named Jackson. And I loved his voice. It felt comforting and soulful--like the others my dad regularly played on our record player at home in St. Paul, MN--Bruce Springsteen, Bob Segar, Bonnie Raitt, Fleetwood Mac, Tina Turner, Jim Croce, Neil Diamond, James Taylor. And we saw many of them in concert too—my mom, sister, and me piled into our Oldsmobile Delta 88 as my dad excitedly drove us to the Civic Center in St. Paul to witness these legends in the making. We connected to these musical greats as a family, learning the lyrics and swaying to the rhythm in our kitchen, living room and in the car.
Sitting on rock-formed bench carved into a awe-inspiring Colorado mountainside, I am overjoyed to be with my husband and two music-loving dear friends. The crowd begins to cheer as a much older looking version of the Jackson Browne I “knew” and loved, saunters out onto the stage. At first sight, I am a bit taken aback by his somewhat worn and tired appearance. But within moments, this feeling dissipates as his familiar melodic voice floods my ears with the lyrics that have made lasting imprints on my soul.
“Doctor, my eyes have seen the years; And the slow parade of fears without crying; Now I want to understand.” And as if on cue, my eyes fill with tears of nostalgia and a keen awareness of the passage of time. I see myself—fumbling my way through my early 50s and a career change, and peering at the upcoming inevitability of an empty nest and the shifting relationship with my four children and husband.
“…there is a part of me that wants to go back... Just for a visit. To that time of freedom. That time of youth. I feel a deep yearning to slow it all down. The speed at which we grow up. That our kids grow up. Yes, it seems to go really slowly at first, but then POW! We are off! They are off! In fact, at this very moment, all four of my kids are in different states; one is actually in a different country—NY, IL, WI, and Israel! And my heart is in all of those places too! Can it be? Yes, it can. It’s hard to make sense of it all; to break life down into separate memories that live together on one continuous spectrum—along with the joy, the worry, the celebrations, the mistakes, and the break-throughs. And all of this dances or clatters through my heart and mind wherever I am. But I must admit, they are all blowing and swirling in full force in the Windy City! And I am grateful,” I wrote in a recent Instagram post while visiting my son in Chicago.
And now, leaning my head on my husband’s shoulder while Jackson sings of lost love In the Shape of a Heart, I settle in to feelings of gratitude. After 27 years of time together, 25 as husband and wife, I still love him. Do we argue, annoy one another, and disagree on many issues? Do we still have to work really hard on our relationship? Unequivocally yes on all counts. But for the most part, we truly like and respect each other. And I know far too well that this is not to be taken for granted. And I also know that the children, who can serve as very convenient distractions for decades, do grow up. And they leave. And it gets very, very quiet.
Tomorrow we leave Colorado and our four-week stint of empty nesting comes to an end. While I spent so many years yearning for more quiet and less pulls on me, it all feels very different now. I still do cringe at the thought of all the driving, the homework, and the college application stress that lies ahead in the next few years, I am not in a hurry for my next two children to pack up and head out. I haven’t stopped missing my older two who live on opposite sides of the country. I don't think I ever will. But I do know that despite the void that will be left when our last blue-eyed babe takes off, there will be plenty of happiness and love remaining in my heart and home.