‘Southern Voices’ is a reader-submitted platform for stories from the heart. Today’s submission comes from Amy McBride of Franklin, TN. If you have a story to tell, see our guidelines for submission here.

Dear Diary,

It has been a long few days of all things coronavirus. It seems like the endless rain, toilet paper and Covid-19 are the only things talked about these days. I have received hundreds of emails from every store I have ever purchased anything from … even places I haven’t ordered from in 20 years (I see you, Talbots). Emails from doctors’ offices, libraries, restaurants, delivery companies, banks, church, our kids’ schools and grocery stores, all addressing how they are handling the coronavirus pandemic. Television stories and social media posts offer support and opinions for the elderly, disabled, parents “homeschooling” young kids, ways to help folks who can’t get out, ideas of things to do as a young family, etc … It seems they have thought of everyone except EMPTY NESTERS! We got our feathers ruffled by the sudden and unexpected re-entry of the college kids! I mean this isn’t funny … We got bamboozled! It’s like one day we were on “Fantasy Island” and the next day “Survivor!” BOOM! We’re in isolation with these semi-adultish people who drain our bank accounts and tell us we’re too old to be friends with people they know on Facebook. Is this “Candid Camera,” Diary? Just last week my husband and I were celebrating new growth on our fiddle leaf fig, enjoying the beautiful sounds of silence and looking forward to watching “Wheel.” It’s like a crop duster flew over and dropped a flock of geese in my den! And by flock, I mean one college girl — but geese are loud, messy and will goose you when you least expect it. I know their brains are still developing and all, but that’s easy to forget when you’re trying to talk over the deafening tones of TikToks and FaceTime while getting the side-eye if I watch.

At lunch yesterday I’m sitting in my usual spot at my kitchen table enjoying some white bean soup (yes, beans … ’cause all our money goes to two children whose brains aren’t fully developed. Who’s laughing now?) when I hear my child’s phone ringing to FaceTime someone. The person answers, “Hi, literally on the toilet. What’s up?” For the next 45 minutes, we had a “visitor.” What’s crazy is that there is never an “excuse me for a second while I … ” It’s just like they are in the room. I feel like I need to say “excuse me” when I ask my daughter to put her plate away (hashtag sass).

I know, I know … People are sick, there’s a pandemic and this is trivial. “I’ll miss this time one day.” People said I would miss that season of sweet baby time in the middle of the night too. I thought they were crazy when they said it. Twenty years later, I confirm that diagnosis. I woke up this morning and spent 20 precious minutes trying to decide if I should text my daughter’s suitemate and wish her a happy birthday or not. If I don’t text her, then I don’t like her friends. If I do text her, I’m weird. So I text her. Her friend seemed so appreciative and sent all the heart eyes back. I win! When my daughter woke up, I got a “I told you not to text my friends! That’s weird for a 53-year-old to text a 20-year-old. Please stop!” Salty much? Am I in parent prison? I think yes. A fellow empty nester friend called and said, “If there was a time limit and I knew when he was leaving, it would help a lot. This unknown timeframe is gonna do me in … and I know they are going to cancel for the rest of the year. Bye-bye, empty nest. It was fun while it lasted.”

Diary, I know I wrote a lot of entries on dreading the empty nest. I know I worried and wondered what life would be like. Would it be okay if I rip those pages out and burn them? I mean, you know how much I love my kids, but that 137-and-a-half days of empty nesting was dope.

— Amy

Beyonce, the cat | Image: Amy McBride

Amy and her husband used to be empty nesters. They have two college-age daughters (one has never been so happy to live off-campus and get to stay put during Corona 2020) and one 23-year-old daughter who is off the payroll. Their cat Beyoncé is also adjusting to the not so empty nest and watching out for the neighbors.