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The Practice of Saying Good-bye…by Jennifer Probst

June 15, 2018

The baby birds are gone.
They flew the coop.
I have empty nest syndrome.
Maybe I should explain.
You see, we have nests built around my house in the Spring all the time. Many I need to dismantle before the eggs come, since they’re in dangerous places. This season, one mama bird was determined to build her nest on top of my fan/light on my beautiful back deck. Where I go and eat, and write, and hang out.
We had a bit of a battle that went on. She’d begin building it, I’d tear it down.
Until one morning, I woke up and there was a fully constructed nest, and her bird ass was sitting right in the middle of the nest, pretty much threatening me to toss her out on the street.
I surrendered. She won fair and square. I admire such perseverance in a mother and let her stay.
Because the sliding glass doors allow me to see everything up close, protected by the glass, I began to become somewhat obsessed with this bird family. I’d bring my coffee over to the door and watch her. Check on her multiple times throughout the day. Figured out the spot her and the daddy robin would perch when they gathered worms and needed to keep an eye on the eggs. They became like family.
I returned home from Memorial Day weekend from my brother’s house and immediately raced to see the nest.
The birds had been born.
They were naked, and tiny, and practically hidden in that deep nest except for their pleading, open beaks begging for constant food. I watched the father gather worms and feed the mother and the babies when she was too damn tired to go hunting for food. I watched the baby birds bother her all the time, begging for attention and nutrients or trying to squeeze more space from that nest for themselves. I knew feeding times, where she hunted for worms, what tree she flew to when she got scared, and I threatened my family with eviction if anyone went near the deck.
My husband began asking if I wrote anything during the day or if I just watched the nest.
I told him he was being ridiculous.
Of course, I wrote. Kind of.
The birds grew. They got feathers. Their necks now stretched over the nest. Things began to change. I felt the shift in the air, the energy, and experienced prickling anticipation to see what would happen next. I think I imagined a great goodbye scene where I watched the birds fly off, and I cried and videotaped it and it was beautiful and just like the movies.
But one morning, I got up and checked on them and the nest was empty.
They’d just left overnight, or at sunrise, as fast and mysteriously as mama bird had built her nest.
My husband celebrated by cleaning the deck and throwing a barbeque/pool party. The kids were happy and began playing baseball and kickball.
I was sad. I keep going to the window to check, then realize they’re gone.
This experience, of course, got me thinking about goodbyes. There are so many goodbyes we need to say in life. They are required in order to live to the fullest – hello and goodbye are sewn into the seams of our every day experiences. But most of them don’t happen in a big, emotional unveiling.
Most of them happen quietly. Simply. Organically.
Until we notice.
My boys are all long limbed legs, hearty appetites, and awkward, amazing smiles—hovering on the edge of a growth spurt that will eventually take them away. My dog is white faced, slower moving, and hard of hearing. My friends have children graduating and going into college, or high school, or middle school. Our parents are aging.
I’m celebrating my first Father’s Day without my dad. When Justified won the Triple Crown, there was a joy and grief inside of me that wept and laughed at the same time. He would have loved to see that race—it was such a beauty.
The romance industry is changing, morphing, finding its new place in a world of shrinking print and limited shelf space and discount pricing and lessening traditional contracts. Other wonderful things rise up though, making this industry exciting and adventurous and never staid or boring.
I spent endless months trying desperately to write a book that was one of the hardest I’ve ever produced, and now it’s finally in the last round of copyedits and I’m done. It’s just…over. I started a new book.
To my wonderful surprise – The Start of Something Good released last week and hit high on the Amazon charts at #11 in all books, with a #1 bestselling flag proudly displayed.
Every day, we say goodbye to one important, vital element we all tend to forget about.
Time passes and ticks away and we must hold on to what we have left.
We can mourn the losses—we are supposed to—but I think it’s important to be reminded of what is left when a goodbye is said.
Memories. Empty spaces that can be filled with other things—not necessarily better or worse – but different. Growth. Beauty. Change.
Let’s try to celebrate what we can in the day to day regimen, because when we eventually need to say goodbye, we’ll have enough not only to sustain us, but to fill us.
I imagine those birds flying on their own, one day building their own nests on someone’s back deck.
The thought now makes me smile.

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    I don’t usually click through to comment, but that was such a lovely post that I had to. Thank you so much. That was inspiring.

  2. bonnie matoren says:

    Dear Jenn,

    As always, your words beautifully and eloquently express what its so often difficult to say.

    Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain’s deaths hit me hard this week.

    And goodbyes for as frequent as they may be are still oh so hard.

    I enjoy your writing and am grateful for the escape that it provides.

    The opportunity it gives to transport myself into the charachters and the stories you tell.

    Thanks for being so good at what you do.


  3. Steph says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I couldn’t agree more with what Bonnie said.

    You have this incredible way of helping us comprehend the meaning of life-changing events that we experience through life.

    You should be very proud of yourself; I am genuinely a fan of the work that you do.

    Please continue to write for many years to come.


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