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Filling the Empty Nest

By Michelle Pearson

Born in 1965, I grew up believing that when one graduated high school, or turned 18, that was it … they would
be on their own … going to college, or working and making their own living until they married. In fact, I
graduated early, and left home to join a musical/drama team. I was “supposed” to do that because I was an
“adult.” In fact, all my peers graduated and then a few married, some went to work to pay for living on their
own, or many went to college and lived in dorms. Very few stayed home once they graduated high school. They
were adults. If I hadn’t left, I would have been expected to pay rent the moment I turned eighteen. My peers
were given the same expectations. But, outside the home sounded much more inviting to almost all of us, so we
left to “pay rent” elsewhere.

Living on my own was quite a shock, though, to say the least. I was moved about an hour and a half from home
… my parents shoved my couple of suitcases into my 4th floor hotel room that I would share with 2 other young
women, whom I had not met, then we went back down to the lobby where they quickly said good-bye, gave me
a hug, and were off … smiling, and with a bounce in their steps. Hmmmm … ok. So, I went back upstairs and
began unpacking. Eventually, I had to use the restroom, which was a small room with a 4 inch square vent up
toward the ceiling that itself was quite a ways up, and a very solid wood door. Of course, I locked it, for our
room doors had to be kept open during the day. Little did I know, the lock had issues. Being very
claustrophobic, I panicked when the lock knob began spinning in my hand, but the door did not budge. I could
barely breathe let alone get any words audibly from my mouth. I managed to whisper “Help!” a time or two, but
I hardly heard it. So, I began violently shaking the door by the door knob. It was all I could do. The 4th floor
was quiet except for the seldom sound of the elevator going by. No one was there. They couldn’t be, as they
each had 2 full time jobs to do each day there at the hotel and surrounding shops. I don’t know how long I was
there shaking the door … perhaps, quite a while … perhaps, only a minute … to me it was nearly an eternity.

Finally, I heard a female voice nearby, who asked, “Are you trapped?!”

“Yes! Help me!” I managed.

She tried to calm me, introducing herself as Marcy, my new roommate, and then advised she would go for help.
Help was found, while I continued to shake the door. Their help came as instructions as to how to get the lock
to catch and unlock. Eventually, my feeble attempts to follow their instructions worked. I was released.

Marcy welcomed me quickly, told me that I would sleep on the queen sized bed with the other roommate
“Leslie,” instructed me where to put my belongings, and then went back to work as the elevator operator. (The
hotel was of the 1920s era, and was run as such.) So, I sat there … alone … very alone … home sick for the
first time in my life. Though I had stayed away from home with friends, family, or camps before, I had never
felt home sick. It was not an enjoyable feeling. I wanted to go home. But, I eventually finished unpacking my
few belongings, and ventured down to the lobby to find someone to ask what I should then do.

Since my father told them what an “excellent” seamstress I was (which I wasn’t, and didn’t have a clue), they
assigned and sent me to the sewing room way up on the 10th floor. There was this dungeon of a room … sweat
house like, really, where some beautiful young women sat joyfully sewing some elaborate costumes. I was
shown around, given my hours, and sat down to task. This would become my first job … I had never been an
employee before. It was there, for that day that I was questioned about myself, and questioned about sewing
terms that I didn’t know, nor even had heard before. Well, that was my first day, and my last … the next day I
was sent to elevator duty. Elevator?! Remember, I was claustrophobic, and terrified of elevators! But, that was
my job … where I’d become so frightened through the mezzanine area that I would “floor” the elevator past,
guests with me or not … and would become “stuck” often … having to be rescued through a tiny crack along
with any guests … being sure not to tumble to our deaths below in the basement. …

The basement … that is where the hotel laundry room was to clean the sheets and towels of the guests. And,
since I kept terrifying the guests, the basement is where my next job would be … laundry person in relief to my
roommate Leslie, who was the laundry queen! But, my job must not have been to par, as I was quickly re-
assigned to do housekeeping.

Anyway, each day, I’d wake up, get ready before or after my roommates … usually in their way to go work my
eight hour job. We normally talked little, as they came in late, and fell right to sleep, and in the morning we
were rushing around to get ready for work. After I was ready, I’d go to work and work my eight hours, and
then I’d rush upstairs to get dressed and ready to go to Daisy’s Ice Cream Parlor in the hotel where there were
Parlor Shows done by a cast 2-5 times a night. I loved it! Sitting in the parlor, watching the cast sing, and dance
(oh! I mean “choreograph!” as we weren’t allowed to dance), and enjoying the entertainment.

One day, though, as we were settling in for the evening, I mentioned how much I enjoyed seeing the Parlor
shows each night. My roommates both gasped. “What?! How do you have time for that between your two

Two jobs?! What were they talking about?! I was only given one. Oh, but they saw to it that was changed by
the next day … no more parlor shows for me. Housekeeping by day, and gift shop, laundry, or elevator by
night. Then, sleep came easy. Eventually, it came time for tour training for the next season … then I would
work only one full time job, and then take classes and rehearse the remainder of the day. Sunday was my only
day off.

So, what did I learn? Life for me would be work. I learned to “vacuum” with a hose in a wall, to run an elevator,
that you pay for things you break in a gift shop … even when you received NO money for any of the work you
did …. In fact, I was supported by $60/month from my church. I also learned to sing and entertain … although,
it wasn’t “entertainment” … it was “ministry.” I also learned that I was to get married soon … that’s what
people did.

What I didn’t learn … how to manage money or a household or what type of man I should marry, except that he
was a Christian … but, I learned how to do my jobs and the 7 or so programs I would perform before audiences
each day throughout America. By the middle of the tour year, my future husband proposed to me. At the end of
the tour, we went to Miami, where I lived in a tiny trailer behind his parents’ home, and he lived in the home.
We were married within a year. His mom attempted to teach me to cook and submit to a husband, but I was so
in love and wanting to get to know my future husband, that I didn’t have too much time for that.

Well, after we married, I did clean … a lot … I’d work my part time job … and went home and cleaned while
my husband worked his full time job. The home was spotless. But, I had no idea about home management,
because he was “supposed” to do that … and, little did I know that he didn’t have a clue either.

My friends?! Well, they partied a lot or worked and had off and on romances. Alcohol, drugs, and sex was
really taking off in the society … beginning to become the norm … as it is today. Some did well in business …
especially those that went to college. Others went from job to job … as my husband and I would do. Almost
all would go from partner to partner or spouse to spouse.

What happened?! Why had ethics, morals, and life in general changed so much from a couple to a few decades
earlier? Actually a lot of things changed … but, I believe the major cause of the downfall was the demise of the
family unit and the earlier push for the empty nests, which were caused by many things like technology, the
push for higher education, etc. Due to technology, more people would need higher education, and, for most,
higher education would mean leaving home at the tender age of eighteen or even earlier.

What is interesting, is that scientists have found that 18 year olds’ or even up to 25 year olds’ bodies and,
especially, neurological systems haven’t completely developed or matured. There are many debates as to why
this is, but I am warning that this is a time that a person needs further nurturing and guidance from a strong
family unit.

I study genealogy. In my studies, I am finding how that many people stayed within their parents’ family unit
for many years … even after marriage … just for the sake of helping the family survive. When the children
were able, and the parents became more frail, then the parents would move in under the child’s family unit.
They stuck together often to survive. They loved each other … they worked together to survive … to pay for
the necessities … to eat … and to have shelter. They enjoyed each other’s company … they knew each other,
and together they would enjoy others’ company from time to time at church, church socials, or dances. They
learned together how to survive … how to work … how to love … and how to behave morally and ethically.
I’m finding there was little divorce … except in large cities where there were wealthy families that had to do
little to survive and also whom sent their young adults to college early on. Wealth was much more rare in those
days. The ability to go to college was a great privilege for those not so wealthy, and an expectation for the
young men of wealthy families.

College … it seems like the best thing to do, doesn’t it? I mean, they are adults, and they need to learn to make
a living, right?! Of course, they need to learn to make a living! And, I’m not against college. I am questioning,
though, the new adults leaving the family unit at such a young age. I mean, they just “grew up!” They hadn’t
had a chance to even think about how to make a living for themselves or how to manage a family. I mean, the
parents ran that, and they went to school and were cared for and did as they were told. Now they are adults.
Who is going to teach them about family management, love and commitment to a family, responsibility, and
ethics and morals? They are young … they are foolish … and now most families kick their young adults into a
pool of other excited, foolish young adults from whom they’ll learn their ethics, morals, and fun-loving,
irresponsible new ways. This is when their neurological system is finishing development.

Have you looked at our world lately? Yes, we have become technologically advanced, but our people are
lacking in relationships, in ethics, in morals, in commitment, and many are searching for something to fill the
large voids in their life … trying to fill those voids with work, alcohol, drugs, sex, or even charity work.

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