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My husband and I were 2 ½ years into our well-earned membership in the Empty Nest Club when the Category 5 CoronaStorm hit. We always knew it was subject to change. But never could we have imagined that it would shift in such an unforeseeable way.

We were minding our own business, living our regularly scheduled hectic lives, with a spring breaker and a weekend skier drifting through, when our winter of discontent would morph into a lifeless spring, and like a game of musical chairs, wherever we all were at that moment in March was where we would stay, like it or not, for weeks on end.

The hourly changes to our daily routines began to give us whiplash. Coronavirus, not a part of anyone’s vocabulary months earlier, now shared sentences with words like “unprecedented” and “social distancing.” Eternally optimistic, we still held out hope that the trip of a lifetime and a graduation would go on as planned.

In the blink of an eye, our nest filled back up. I went from cooking for two to appeasing the finicky interlopers whose ill-fated timing found them cornered once again in their childhood bedrooms. I was now a short-order cook, fighting the rising tide of dirty dishes that never seemed to find their way to the sink, let alone the dishwasher.

The washing machine and dryer, in virtual retirement with just two adults in the nest, were jolted out of their slumber as loads of laundry and towels stacked up like trucks on the interstate. It seemed Cinderella and Snow White preferred to use towels just once before discarding them.

Only missing our adult son, who sheltered in place at ground zero in Seattle, suddenly it was 2009 again.

The grocery list alone with special dietary requests now ran longer than a roll of high-priced and highly sought-after toilet paper. It was a good thing my social calendar had been wiped clean. I now needed every waking hour to stand in line at the supermarket, waiting to get inside and snake my way through aisles in one direction with other masked-and-gloved zombies wiping down shopping carts like we were washing the car. I’d be lucky to be back home before nightfall.

Our newly redecorated living room was doubling as the Bakersfield office of an LA-based company while our middle daughter worked from home. Our kitchen, and this writer’s humble “office” long before the storm, now served as both a makeshift “break room” and a virtual college classroom.

Corona-frenia was taking over.

I began to wonder whether all the cleaning was even essential. Their childhood home, the one they were averse to inviting groups of friends to in high school, was suddenly their Taj Mahal.

But this corona-cane had silver linings. Conversations became longer and more insightful. Walks together through our neighborhood became routine. We played board games, met characters like Joe Exotic, and watched movies and television shows we might not have otherwise.

Life had never felt more fragile. But the universe forced us all to stop and smell the roses, and suddenly, life was a little more fragrant. We were thrown together on an uncharted journey to a deserted island. We checked in on loved ones riding the tempest out in solitary confinement. We FaceTimed when we couldn’t hug in real time. Our patience grew, even if there was often congestion at the intersection of the dining room and kitchen.

Our family, and our sheltered-in-place son, were gifted an unsolicited amount of time. We used it to read more, connect more and appreciate more. The unexpected reunion, with 2-of-3 back in the nest, recalibrated our priorities and reminded us of what is most important: our health and each other. Thankfully we still have both.

In our house, 2020 will be remembered as the year nearly all our grown children returned to the nest. When controlled chaos ruled the day. An almost-reunion we’d never planned. When the universe forced us away from our frenetic lives.

I’m grateful for it all, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Lisa Kimble.

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