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Domestic Bliss

New beginnings


Growing up, I always felt I had the best birthday possible. April 3 was a harbinger of spring, a celebration of new life, an announcement that the ground was crawling with earthworms, bulbs were blooming, rains were coming and soon, the Earth would explode with color. And like my mother's birthday, March 25, April 3 was occasionally the date on which Easter fell.

Thanks to the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, a formula based on a lunar calendar was adapted to determine the date of Easter -- the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, March 21. Depending on the lunar cycle, Easter could fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25.

This year, the full moon rose, a fuzzy golden globe in the eastern sky, on Saturday, March 26. I saw it driving home in one of those whoops-I-almost-drove-off-the-road moments, and I rushed inside to tell my sons they must go out and see it. But they weren't at home, so I watched it alone for a few minutes before turning myself over to Saturday night television, time with a book and bed.

The next morning, Easter Sunday, I worked a while and did laundry while my sons visited their father, stepmother and little brother. They came home with brightly colored Easter baskets filled with malted milk balls, jelly beans and candy bars. They delivered a gift to me from their stepmother, a lovely potted sprig of purple heather. The note attached read: Wishing you many new beginnings.

'New beginnings' has been my mantra for the past year, ever since I realized I would soon be an empty nester, my two youngest children nearly out of the coop and off to college. Free to answer only to myself after 28 years of active daily parenting, I can either reinvent myself or fall into a depressive funk. And who knows? Maybe I'll do both.

As the time of their departure draws nearer, the urge toward change grows stronger. I'll change my job, change my hair, transform my body, work less, work more, live somewhere else, live here and change the place where I live. I'll shed attachments, take on new ones; I'll be better, stronger and healthier.

It all sounds good, but even better are small changes, new beginnings so subtle I don't even notice they've happened until after they've passed.

Take the Easter baskets, for example. In another year, another time, I would have been jealous that my sons' stepmother made them Easter baskets when I hadn't. I would have felt guilty that she gave me a gift and I didn't give her one in return. But last Sunday, when the boys walked in with their baskets of treats and my gift, I was happy for them and grateful to her, pure and simple.

Or take the Saturday night of the full moon. I went to bed early that night and didn't wake up until nearly 4 a.m., unusual in this post-menopausal insomniac phase of life. Where I would normally have awakened in a panic, wondering whether my sons were home or not, I calmly turned over and opened a book instead of slipping downstairs to peek into their bedroom doors.

On Easter Sunday, we drove to Denver for mid-afternoon dinner with an old friend, her family and her new friends. My sons were sweet and attentive all afternoon, making me proud. But where in years past I might have watched for clues that they were ready to leave, and might have directed their conversations, at this gathering I watched them confidently approach strange adults, watched them participate in the preparation of food and in discussions at the table. New beginnings abounded.

I still love my birthday and love the Easter season that surrounds it. The earthworms aren't exactly churning in the Colorado soil quite yet, but a walk through the garden reveals new green growth beneath last winter's dried brown leaves. The lilac buds are swollen, and limp daffodils glow yellow beneath the spring snow.

On Easter Sunday morning, I sipped coffee and typed on my laptop computer at a downtown coffee shop as families strolled by, leaving church in their Easter finery. Two little girls walked past the coffee shop window, swinging cotton-gloved hands as their full skirts flounced, their pink stockings puckered at the knees. I looked at them and thought of my daughter in New York City, all grown up and living her own life. And here's the thing: I didn't feel a second's worth of regret or nostalgia, only gladness and, yes, relief that she was 28 and I was almost 51 and I didn't have to orchestrate the Easter egg hunt.

It's a small new beginning, but hey, you've gotta start somewhere.

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