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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Dad's New Hobby
By Jan Ackerson


I heaved my overstuffed duffle bag to the porch and fumbled for the key to my own back door. Since I’d left for college six weeks ago, it had migrated to the bottom of my backpack. But I didn’t want to ring the doorbell; this was a surprise visit home. Another girl in my dorm lived in a town about thirty miles down the highway, and she’d offered me a ride.

My plan was to open the door verrrrrrrry quietly and to drop my things in the mudroom. It was just a little after two in the afternoon—Mom would probably be busy cleaning something, and Dad would probably be busy making something dirty. Certainly they wouldn’t be expecting me—Greenville College was over four hours away, and I hadn’t planned to come home until the long Thanksgiving break.

I tip-toed through the kitchen, where I noted that the lunch dishes were still on the counter. Strange…Mom’s always been fairly obsessive about cleaning up. More times than I can count, she’d hover over my shoulder while two bites of BLT remained on my plate. “You finished with that, dear?” Well, no, Mom, but let me just shove it in my mouth so you can whisk it away…The coffeepot still held half an inch of coffee, and the butter dish was uncovered on the table. My heart lurched. Something was definitely wrong here.

My feeling of not-rightness increased when I hopped into the living room, arms spread theatrically, with a big “ta-daaaah”. I’d expected the usual early-afternoon scenario: Mom dusting or vacuuming—homey chores that interested me not in the slightest—and Dad on the laptop, researching his latest interest. One month it was raising Pacman frogs, the next, antique picture frames.

What I saw, though, was a living room in disarray. Well, relatively speaking; my mother’s handiwork basket was beside the couch, a bit of knitting flung onto a cushion, her sweater draped on the coffee table. Dad’s laptop was on, the screen saver bouncing around, and his shoes were in the middle of the floor, oddly askew. The word rapture briefly sprang to mind. Nah…

I considered calling 911, but called out their names first. “Mom? Dad? Is anybody here?”

Fifteen seconds of silence. I was reaching for my cell when I heard a scurrying from down the hall. Mom came trotting out to meet me, her cheeks flushed with surprise. “Addy! What on earth—how did you get here?”

“Courtney brought me, Mom…you met her at orientation, remember? With the funny haircut? She lives pretty close, and…what’s going on?”

“Oh, I was just…cleaning our closet. Your dad…his ties were all…oh, it’s good to see you, sweetie! Did you have lunch?”

I gave Mom a hug, noting her tousled hair. She must have been working hard. “Yeah, we ate on the road. I’ll just get my bag and toss it in my room. I brought tons of laundry.”

“Oh Addy, about your bedroom…” My mother looked over her shoulder toward my bedroom door. “We’ve made a few changes…if we’d known you were coming, we’d have…”

Without going back for my duffle, I strode to my old room. All of my things were still there: bed, dresser, desk—but shoved against the back wall and covered with piles of junk. “Mom, what on earth--”

“It’s your dad’s new hobby, dear. He’s making dollhouses now. It’s so much nicer here than in the garage…” She stopped as Dad walked in, tucking his t-shirt into his jeans. She glanced at him with a look that made me blush. Good grief.

Dad kissed Mom’s forehead. “Addy, we weren’t expecting you. How’s school?”

I was still trying to take it all in…my room destroyed, my parents acting like total strangers, my dad, who had walked in…from…from the direction of…oh, good grief.

On the worktable in the middle of my decimated bedroom was a tiny model of our very own house. I stooped down and peered in the window of what would be my parents’ bedroom. “Gonna put a tiny chandelier in there for the mother and father dolls to swing from, Dad? A heart-shaped Jacuzzi, maybe?”

“Addy!” My mother sounded shocked, but her lips were curled in a barely stifled smile. “We’d like our grandchildren to play with this dollhouse some day!” But she turned to Dad with wide eyes. “A Jacuzzi, honey! What do you think?”

TMI! I turned away from their goofy grins and stuck my fingers in my ears. Nanananananananana….

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This article has been read 967 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Charla Diehl 09/18/09
I'm still grinning from ear to ear with this one. Fun dialog and scenes--and loved Addy's comments about the dollhouse. Cute, entertaining, humorous and sweet all at the same time. Truly was tickled by this one.
Allen Stark09/18/09
Not only does our daughter come in unexpectedly at times, but so do her friends. We all are like family so it doesn't seem necessary to knock...well except for those afternoons when we decide to take a "nap."
Ruth Brown09/19/09
Very clever! Great realism and very funny!
Beth LaBuff 09/19/09
You had me smiling all through this. I enjoyed the personality change of the parents. My husband and I are empty-nesters (as of 4 weeks ago). Our youngest is at a university 5 hours away. She popped home last night to surprise us (at 10pm). :) Fortunately her room was pretty much intact. :)
TJ Nickel09/19/09
I LOVE that you went first person from a person that isn't an empty nester. Great way to draw the reader in to a situation uncomfortable in general. Fantastic p.o.v. It's obvious you get it right before you write.
Catrina Bradley 09/21/09
I loved your MC; I felt like I was right there with her (unfortunately). I'll bet that was her LAST surprise visit home! Very fun read.
Mona Purvis09/21/09
Yeah, where do these kids think they come from?
Guess it's never easy to think of your parents that way.
Leah Nichols 09/22/09
Saw that one coming....lol....I always call first, even if I am outside. :D
Betty Castleberry09/22/09
I'm laughing out loud. I knew where this was going, but it didn't stop me from enjoying it. Buncha stars from me.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/22/09
Oh yes! This was great. If I told you how much I identified with it, I could hear my kids in the background saying TMI, TMI!
You have he MC's voice just right.
Sherrie Coronas09/22/09
At first I was worried this was going down a different, darker road but was so pleased with the outcome:) The writing, as always, smooth as silk. Super enjoyable read.
Bryan Ridenour09/22/09
Very well written. Loved the reaction of your MC and her TMI moment. Fun read!
Joy Faire Stewart09/22/09
It's funny how our kids see us, and you've captured that pov with humor. Very entertaining writing.
Pamela Kliewer09/22/09
Oh yeah... recent empty nester here... I certainly related and our daughter could have written this as well. I saw where it was going too. Great read. Loved it from start to finish!
Kimberly Russell09/22/09
This was hysterical! You could just see what was probably coming but the build-up was great! Very funny and well written.
Carol Slider 09/22/09
"Cleaning our closet..." Ah, yes... Hilarious, Jan! Loved it!
Chely Roach09/22/09
Tee hee...I bet she'll ring the bell next time, and never tiptoe again. Loved the POV, and the ending made me snarf. Verrrry funny stuff here;)
Diana Dart 09/23/09
LOVE IT! Good for those two - sheesh kid, if you want to sneak in, be prepared for surprise of your own. Absolutely adorable and cheeky.
Mariane Holbrook 09/23/09
Are you sure one of my kids didn't write this? Great fun!
Connie Dixon09/23/09
Ha! Loved your title. You've done it again, this is a winner. Very creative and fun.
Holly Westefeld09/24/09
Ah, the freedoms and joys of empty nesting! My mind was running in a similar direction, but I was afraid someone I knew might read it. :D