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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Bitter and Sweet (05/28/09)

TITLE: Coalesce
By Pamela Kliewer


Rain runs in sheets down the window as I sit at the kitchen table sipping a cup of peach tea. The weather matches my mood today. I have cried so much lately that my eyes resemble the window, streaked and smudged.

I don't know if this time in my life can actually be called bitter, but it's certainly close. It's also extremely sweet; go figure, huh? How can I term it bitter and sweet? Well, that's just the thing, it's bittersweet.

You see, several days ago my only daughter, my only child left for college - a University about three hours away. She has been at home longer than most kids her age, and for that my husband and I have been grateful. I wonder if it's made the parting harder… the empty nest loom larger? It's hard to say, because truth be told, I've been letting go for several years now, even while she's still been home.

This final cutting of the apron string, though… it's, well, as I said, bittersweet. Bitter, because grief wants to be my companion, following me everywhere I go; tears never far from the surface. Sweet, because Joy is doing what we raised her to do; spreading her wings, broadening her horizons, soaring.

Still sipping my tea, my mind tiptoes along the edges of my memories, afraid that if I move to fast I will disturb them somehow and they won't be as precious.

Gladness surrounded my husband and I like sunshine when he told me we were pregnant. Having been disappointed before, I couldn't bear to look at the pregnancy test I'd taken. My heart filled with joy as I thanked God for changing my heart. I hadn't wanted children when we first got married.

The delights, and yes the hardships of pregnancy; all delightful, really, because of the wonder of carrying a child within.

Labor - intense pain. Delivery - utter satisfaction. My husband at the birth of our daughter, saying, "We have a Joy!" I am so glad we didn't know before hand what gender the baby was.

I set my teacup down, looking out the window, the memories wanting to come faster now, somehow telling me it's okay to move through this time at a bit faster pace.

The first moments of nursing; bonding with my baby girl.

The first smile.

Laughter. Her laugh was music to our ears; we did whatever we could to bring it forth from deep within her.

Her mode of getting around the house… from rolling across the floor, to army crawl, to crawling, and finally walking.

Tears run down my cheeks, unabated once again. I can't help it. The little baby I watched grow up and had to begin letting go of the moment she left the safety of my womb is now on a college campus many miles away. I'm not there to make sure she's okay, to hold her and wipe the tears off her cheeks when she's hurting.

More memories crowd around, calling for attention.

Water splashed in the bathroom sink the day she made a 'fishing pole' and 'went fishing.' There was also water everywhere the day she replicated Noah's ark with her blocks and used a spray bottle for rain.

Sunlight streamed through the window as we had a tea party together in her bedroom, using the same tea set from when I was a little girl.

We created beauty together as we sat by the kitchen table, coloring.


Now the memories zip by through the school years, beginning our homeschooling journey when Joy was in fourth grade.

As we sat on the porch pulling a pansy apart for a lesson in botany we were warmed by the sun and by each other's company.

There were tears as she struggled with the math her daddy tried to teach her.

We took many fun field trips with the homeschool group she was in during her middle school years.

The tea is forgotten as I take this journey through my memories, and arrive back at the present time, jarred back to the startling reality of now.

I can sit her and cry until there are no more tears, or, I can realize that the apron strings are cut; letting bitter and sweet coalesce into bittersweet as I get up from the table, walk upstairs and begin turning our daughter's room into my own special retreat.

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This article has been read 468 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 06/05/09
My youngest child plans to attend a university in August… I could relate to so much of this. Judging by your last paragraph, I think you have it figured out! Thanks for writing this.
Jim McWhinnie 06/08/09
Being a recent empty-nester, I so identified with this piece so naturally and wonderfully written.

I enjoyed.
Colin Swann06/08/09
This is excellent descriptive writing. Bang on target. All the best with it! Colin
Mona Purvis06/09/09
So many of us can relate. Grandchildren help. Good story.
Carol Slider 06/10/09
The emotions here are so real! This is a great reminder to those of us with younger children that we should enjoy them while we can! (Just a thought... won't the daughter still want to have her room when she comes home--for Christmas, for the summer, etc.? I know I did!!) Well done.
Jim McWhinnie 06/10/09
Ah, the bitter-sweet experience of having the little ones take flight.

Beautifully told.
Eliza Evans 06/10/09
Very nice writing, Pam! I really like the first line. Great opening and nice mood throughout. Good job.

A tiny thing
Gladness surrounded my husband and I like sunshine when he told me we were pregnant. Who told them they were pregnant? It reads like the MC's husband told them. Is he a doctor?

Also. I think you would have a stronger entry if you eliminated the labels bitter and sweet. Let your story speak for itself. It does.:)
Rita Garcia07/21/09
Beautifully written! Hubby and I are new to the world of "empty nesters," you have so elegantly expressed the essence of this bittersweet time in life. I am sure your special little retreat will be filled with precious memories.