My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

A couple of days ago, I took my son grocery shopping to replenish the supplies he’d bought and eaten the day before. Multiply a 19-year-old young man’s appetite by four and you can see why he and his roommates are continually putting out “SOS” signals for snacks to supplement their college meal plans.

Not that I mind, of course. It gives me an opportunity to spend some quality time with my forever-hungry freshman, even though my wallet has taken quite a hit now that he’s moved into his dorm. First, there’s all the spoiled food in my own fridge that has gone uneaten since he moved out. Expired pomegranate yogurt and Laughing Cow cheese, chocolate pudding, leftover pineapple and pre-cooked bacon past its prime. I even found an old jar of gourmet fig preserves that he liked to spread on top of the aforementioned cheese and have as a midnight snack with crackers while laughing loudly at “Last Week With John Oliver” on his laptop.

My son used to have a daily (sometimes hourly) routine. He would come home from school or a night out with friends, open a jam-packed fridge, stare inside for a minute or two, then loudly announce, “We have NO food!”

And now, for the first time, it’s true. My husband and daughter and I could live for days on salad greens, apples, walnuts and cheese quesadillas, but not my boy. “Variety and presentation are key,” he has insisted since age 13.

So when I picked him up at the dorm and took him to Dan’s Market near the university, I knew that it would be an interesting expedition. Per usual, my kid did not disappoint.

SON (picking up several Honeycrisp apples one by one and giving them each an up-close inspection): “Why are they all bruised?”

MOM: “Those aren’t bruises — they’re variations in the apple’s color.”

SON: “Nope. I know a bruise when I see one. I’ll get Pink Ladies instead.”

We then moved on to the vegetable department.

MOM: “How about some mini carrots for dipping into ranch dressing?”

SON: “Mini carrots are ‘fake’ carrots. I want real carrots. Big carrots.”

MOM: “Well, OK, then. But we’d also better pick up a peeler.”

SON: “Who has time to peel carrots? I’ll just eat them with the peel.”

MOM: “Make sure to wash them then. Just because it says ‘organic’ doesn’t mean they haven’t been walked over by a bunch of flatulent cows.”

SON: “I’ll take my chances.”

He then picked up the store’s only “non-bruised” bunch of bananas, a purple onion, some honey-nut granola bars, a bag of dried mangoes, some thinly-sliced deli ham, a loaf of multi-grain bread, a half-gallon of milk, two boxes of frosted flakes and some frozen strawberries and Greek vanilla yogurt for smoothies. Then he dashed to Aisle Seven and returned with an armload of beef jerky.

MOM: “What’s this? Getting ready for the deer hunt?”

SON (grinning): “You must know by now that I like beef jerky. How come you don’t like it?”

MOM: “Unlike you, I don’t want to take any chances. I value my teeth.”

When we arrived back at the dorm and I offered to help him carry the bags inside, my son, sensing (correctly) that I would end up in another deep political conversation with his roommates, quickly told me he could handle it.

“Bye, honey — love you!” I called out after he gave me a quick hug goodbye and trudged up the stairs. Turning around, he waved a handful of bags at me. “Bye!”

Although I returned home to an empty fridge and a half-empty house, I couldn’t stop smiling. Regardless of whatever else happens in the next four years, one thing is certain: My boy won’t go hungry.

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2 thoughts on “An Appetite for Life

  1. Dennis M Andrus says:

    I very much enjoyed this story! It takes me back to when my daughter was in college, however, she was down at Dixie State, which meant that I didn’t go shopping with her, I just sent money!

    1. Cathy Free says:

      Thanks, Dennis! I swear my food bill has doubled since my son moved out! 😁

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