Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 25 August 2012

Empty Nest or Open Door?

It can’t possibly have escaped your notice, I’m sure, that I’m off on a girly weekend with my good friend, Sarah. We are going to Lincoln; in fact, I’m on the train, right now, winging my way (it’s the fast service) to my destination.

It sounds ridiculous, I’m sure, but I suffered a certain amount of trepidation getting on the train, alone, sans husband. I left him on the platform. I kissed him, picked up my suitcase and found my seat. I put my hand on the glass of the window, like a prisoner in a bad American tv drama, and he pulled a face and placed his hand on the other side of the glass, and we grimaced. There was real pathos... almost.

What happens? 

What happens to all those years between the last bit of independence we have as young adults and the first bit we find again in middle age?

I suppose my life isn’t really very much like other people’s lives. I suppose it’s actually rather rare for anyone not to have her own personal means of transport. I suppose it’s actually very rare for a married couple to live and work together, and, as a consequence, to share their lives quite as completely as the husband and I have done.

I tried to remember when I was last out in the World alone, and I could not. Yes, of course, I run an errand or two, but I don’t drive, so I do those things on foot, because we live, quite literally, in the middle of our home town. 

Anything more than a bit of shopping or a trip to the hairdressers, I almost always do in company, either the husband’s or, for most of the past twenty-two years, one or both of my children’s.

That is beginning to change.

Our older daughter left for university three years ago, and the other one’s just about to fly the nest. Neither one of them needs us. They’re both very independent, and I rather like that they’re out in the World, where they belong.

The husband has an increasingly full professional life and an increasingly global presence,  and that, too, is gratifying. The time he spent travelling used to be filled with taking care of the children, but, now, I have the option of going with him, which broadens my horizons. Honestly, I don’t always want to tag along, and when I do accompany him on trips, I want to spend some of that time enjoying the places we visit rather than standing in his shadow, hanging off the words I’ve heard him say before.

Only last week, that meant I found myself eating alone, in public, for the first time in so long that I couldn’t remember ever having done it before, although I know that I have. It was quite the adventure. I chose from a menu without consultation. I found things to do that didn’t involve any talking. I paid the bill, for goodness sake! I only ever do that when I take my mother or sister out to eat. I liked it, though. I really did.

A little while ago, I decided that my empty nest actually represented an open door, and that I could and would do more for myself, more of the things that please me. I have long been extolling the virtues of women and friendships with women, so, that’s what this trip’s about. That’s why I’m on a train, on my own, for the first time in twenty years.

The view’s good. I’m relaxed, and any trepidation I might have had is fast ebbing away.

I’m out in the World, and I say, “Bring it on!”


  1. Good for you! I've lost some of my independence since I gave up 'proper' work five years ago and there are some aspects I miss. Sitting in one of my favourite places with a pot of tea and a good book is one of them! Much as I love working from home with my husband, I do miss the interaction with other people.