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

TITLE: Feathers
By Rachel Phelps


From : “Sandi Warren”

To : "Stephanie Warren"

Subject : Just a quick question…

Date : Tues, 18 Aug 2009 09:48:07

Dear Steph,

I know you’re busy with orientation activities until 11:30 tonight, but I just had to drop you a line and say that I hope you’re having a great time in college. You father and I are so proud of you, and I know you’re going to take that place over within the next few weeks. If not, remember your bedroom is still available.

Sammy is still mourning. I keep finding him on your bed if we neglect him too long. You are still coming home for your fall break, right? I promised him you’d be home in six weeks, and you can’t disappoint a Scottie.

I actually emailed to ask about a book I found under the couch today. Do you want Little Women with you? I can send it if you want.

Have fun today! We love you!


From : "Stephanie Warren"

To : “Sandi Warren”

Subject : RE:Just a quick question…

Date : Tues, 18 Aug 2009 23:31:37

Mom and Dad,

Orientation is a blast! Today we went on service projects, and I pulled weeds out of the nursing home parking lot for two hours. Exhausting, but fun.

Tell Sammy to keep my bed warm for me. I wish they allowed pets in the dorms.

I don’t think I’ll need Little Women this semester. Don’t bother sending it.

Gonna crash. We start up at 7 in the morning, then classes start Thursday!


From : “Sandi Warren”

To : "Stephanie Warren"

Subject : Happy first day of classes!

Date : Thurs, 20 Aug 2009 07:18:59

Dear Steph,

It was so great to talk to you last night. Sounds like you’ve already made some great friends. Maybe you can bring a few home for a weekend sometime. We’ve got sleeping bags and plenty of floor space.

I was wondering about some old drawings of yours I found. Some of them could be really cute to hang on your wall at school. Would you like me to send them? If not, I’m thinking of putting them up in your room here. I know you said it’s the guest room now, but I still think you should feel at home when you visit.

Also, you mentioned last night that your roommate stays up later than you do. I’m going shopping today and I’ll pick up a pack of earplugs to send with the drawings. You’ll need your sleep, what with those 8 a.m. classes.

Give us a call tonight. We want to hear all about it!



From : "Stephanie Warren"

To : “Sandi Warren”

Subject : RE:Happy first day of classes

Date : Thurs, 20 Aug 2009 22:59:08

Don’t bother with the drawings or the earplugs. I’m doing great.

I’ll try to call tomorrow, we’re on our way out for a food run to Taco Bell, and won’t be back until late.




“How was Fine Arts?”

“Hang on a sec, I’m trying to unlock my door.” Muffled jangle of keychain. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay awake in that class.”

“Well, it does come in the middle of the afternoon and right after English Comp. Bad timing.”

Slight pause.

“Sheesh, I think you know my class schedule better than I do.”

“Just have to know when I can call. Wouldn’t want your phone to ring in the middle of Statistics, would you?”

“No, but…”

“So, I was wondering this morning about your dresser. Is the one in the dorm working okay? Because I just hate that you had to leave this one behind, especially after all the work you did painting it to match your comforter. I could convince your father to make a weekend road trip up to deliver it and save you from cafeteria food for a few meals.”


“My dresser here is fine, Mom.”

“Are you alright, honey? You sound stressed. Lots of homework?”

“No. Mom?”


“The nest is empty, okay?

Long silence.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re… hovering, Mom. If I had some binoculars, I could probably see you fluttering around the dorm right now. I’m at college. The nest is empty.”

Longer silence. Muffled sniffle. Sigh.

“Then you’d better collect your feathers. This house is still full of your stuff.”

“I’ll be home in six weeks for break.”


“You can’t disappoint a Scotty.

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This article has been read 677 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke09/17/09
cute! I LOVE the line about come get your feathers!
Anita van der Elst09/17/09
Gulp, sniffle! It's been several years since our last one left the nest but I guess I hadn't gotten rid of all my tears over that yet. Nice job!
Jan Ackerson 09/22/09
This is EXCELLENT! I'm a hover-er, so I could really relate to the mother, and your characterization of both players is outstanding. All show, no tell. Extremely strong entry!
c clemons09/22/09
I feel sorry for the mother and more sorry for the child. Caring is one thing but a constant checking on becomes worrisome. Writing style with the use of the emails was creative.
Sherrie Coronas09/22/09
I think you did a great job with this very creative entry. There are many of us who go through this as parents and act like this -- I think it's natural at the beginning after raising a child for 18 years. Great job conveying the extremely difficult "letting go" phase of the empty nester. I felt it!!!
Shilo Goodson09/22/09
This was a wonderful story. I think that it's easy for just about anyone to relate to this story. Letting go can be really hard. You want your children to know that you love them, but you want to be careful to not suffocate them with your love and concern.
Bryan Ridenour09/22/09
Very creative entry. Really thought the "better collect your feathers" was a powerful line. Well done!
Beth LaBuff 09/22/09
Great work! I think you've been reading my mind (and my emails)! :) Love your creative format!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/23/09
Very creative for this topic, as well as interesting and realistic. Good job.
Lisa Johnson09/25/09
I think Sandi is my long-lost twin sister...lol. I, too, am a hoverer. I very much enjoyed this story.
Allen Stark09/26/09
Rachel, you've just given my wife and I more of a preview of coming attractions. My wife is probably going to be much like the mother in your narration. However, it will most likely be by way of text messaging. Nice work.