Living in an empty nest has its advantages

Although I don’t mind shopping, I loathe the task when it involves groceries. There is simply nothing fun about picking out green beans, pondering paper towels or getting a door-buster on cream cheese.

I am not alone in this aversion. I know this because I see it on the face of my fellow shoppers every time I visit the grocery store. Most folks offer up a friendly hello, some are polite with the “excuse me,” but body language gives way to despair as we all stand in long lines at the checkout, knowing this task is only the tip of the iceberg.

From the cart to the conveyor belt, the bag caddie back to the cart, the cart to the car, the car to the kitchen counter and finally the kitchen counter to the doggone cupboard.

It’s a never-ending cycle.

Most likely there are people out there who think me a bit dramatic, but you show me a person who thinks I’m overreacting and I’ll show you someone who has never shopped for a husband and four hungry young men, not to mention their friends, guests and the family dog, Sadie, who not only is as big as a horse, but eats like one.

But things have changed recently. Our nest has emptied, appetites have returned to their campus homes and our back entryway is no longer a revolving door with direct access to the pantry.

I had a physical heartache after our four sons left and it lasted right up until I looked into an empty laundry hamper.

My emotions went back and forth. I longed for their wit, humor and hugs, but I found solace in the fact that instead of being that woman who hauled two grocery carts to the car every week, I was going to become the lady carrying a basket with a bundle of grapes and a quart of milk.

Although this empty nest breaks my heart, it’s not all bad. In fact, just the other day I turned my eyes toward the sun, gave my hair a shake and smiled at my new-found freedom.

Just after the holidays, I even skipped a week of grocery shopping as I could think of nothing we needed. We had fruit, a single loaf of bread was more than enough, and as long as we had enough cream on hand for my coffee, we could withstand any storm that Old Man Winter wanted to throw at us.

“Should we go to the grocery store after church this morning?” my beloved spouse of many years proposed to me the first Sunday following the boys’ departure.

“What for?”

“There’s nothing to eat around here,” he replied.

“What?” I asked. “What do you need that we don’t have?”

“Everything,” he said matter of factly.

“And what,” I inquired, “is ‘everything?’ ”

He simply answered, “Everything.”

So off to the store we went. “I’m going to let you man this thing,” I said as I pushed the cart his way, “and see what you can come up with.”

Although my Pat is a very healthy and strong man on the outside, his inner person is a little kid and I quickly learned that turning him loose in the grocery store was a bad idea.

His “everything” included, but wasn’t limited to, red licorice, frozen yogurt and five-meat stuffed-crust pizza. He lamented about our shortage of strawberry jam, grabbed low-fat chips and all but screamed out “Eureka!” when his eyes fell upon the Rice Krispie treats.

On the healthy side, he threw in some cherries, bananas, grapes and a kale medley as a basis for a side salad.

“That’s everything?” I asked as I looked into a half-empty cart.

“Everything,” he replied.

Stating that we had plenty of jam left and the chips were still in good supply, we happily skipped the grocery shopping last Sunday. Yet as the week goes on, I know that we are not going to make it much longer without going to the store.

Sadie is low on dog food, and while Pat might be able to do without his red licorice for a few days, I am declaring a full-blown emergency because, you see, we are out of coffee creamer.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.