Housekeeping for 3 adults

Life just hasn’t been the same since the last child left for college.
The floors are free of toys, crayons and foot piercing Match Box cars and for a year the house was free of day time inhabitants. It was just me and my husband off to work early every day. It was very different from the previous 28 years of constant minor children, but I was just getting adjusted to life as an empty nester when an adult son asked to return and bunk at our place.
He had his own job, his own set of friends and activities. He was not a fledgling anymore and I was not a warm, welcoming momma bird. I sent the whole family into shock by insisting he pay a substantial rent and help with the household chores.
It only took us a year to adjust. He washes his own clothes, cleans the bathroom and bedroom and helps in the yard and kitchen. I overlook his heaps of books and papers related to his job and second master’s degree – as long as he gathers it all up when we expect company – I like to pretend I maintain a perpetually pristine place. We even reached an adult understanding. We do not hang around the house to protect, entertain and supervise him or make sure he goes to bed on time. He returns us the favor.
I was just getting used to having another adult in the house when my husband announced his company was closing shop for a year or so. He was out of a job barely three years shy of retirement.
He may not have a regular job, but he does have projects. He is working at home, developing a polymer technology program for South Arkansas Community College and building cabinets for the New Orleans crew. The man who used to leave in the wee hours of the morning to work on a report, is startled when sunlight pierces our window and I leave our warm, cozy bed to go to work.
The week I realized his work and our income would change drastically, I resigned as the family bookkeeper and gave him the job. I use our son’s monthly rent check to purchase groceries and leave the rest of the expenses to my husband. Once or twice a month he takes over the dining room table, sorts through the bills and bank statements and writes checks. To compute our taxes, he covered not only the dining room table, but kitchen counter, bar stools and living room chairs for days with heaps of canceled checks, old bank statements and tax forms.
A similar clutter radiates onto dining room table from the nearby computer. My son’s books and notes vie for space with my husband’s collection of information on polymer technology which came out of storage and settled on the computer end of the dining room table opposite his design for the cabinets.
I started to set the table for supper one evening – until I realized there was no place to put the dishes. The old clutter of toys and treasures on the floor has been replaced with books and papers on every raised surface.
“Would you like a little more desk space, dear?” I asked.
He looked around and laughed, “you mean besides the table, counter, couches, our bed, and the floor and table in the bedroom?”
“Yeah,” I sighed. “I think it is time to pick-up.”
Feeling quite noble and neat, I left until it was cleared out. I did not make the mess. I was not cleaning it up. I went into the den to record a few thoughts in my journal. Before I could find the journal I re-assembled the parts of my current cross stitch project from the end table, lounge chair and floor. I gathered up stacks of cross stitch magazines and materials and put them back in the basket. I also converted stray scraps of paper into bookmarks for a couple books. I finally found the journal under the futon.
I sat down to reflect on the truth that the more things have changed since the last kid left, the more they have stayed the same.
(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. She can be reached by e-mail at