John Kass

They don't talk about the quiet in the house.

Instead friends tell you all the fun you'll have together, all the freedom you'll finally achieve, once your kids are gone away to college.

The problem is that they tell you in a chatty, excited voice, extolling the benefits of "reconnecting as a couple" and how we'll be able to take classes together, trips, adventures, weekends, whatever.

Betty smiles, pretending to like what she's hearing, and I smile and pretend to like it too.

We don't want to be rude to the chatty, well-meaning people who have gone through it before and sent their kids away to college.

In the back of my mind they're just a tad too enthusiastic, too chirpy, like terrified North Korean tour guides extolling the virtues of their psycho dictator.

Or like dedicated dieters telling you how they never miss bread.

Bread? Who likes bread? Nobody. I hate bread too, don't you? Bread? You've got to be kidding. Bread? Who needs it?

It's all so desperately earnest. And so we, too, feign enthusiasm for this freedom from our twins.

Betty puts her hand on my knee and squeezes gently, warning me not to say anything too stupid. But I just can't help it.

So in a chirpy voice, I say to a friend: You mean we can take art classes together? Like decoupage?

"Yes," says our friend, "all the classes you want."

I lied about the decoupage. Obviously, being artsy like other journalists, I have vaguely heard of it.

But if I ever take a decoupage class or even learn what the heck it really is, then I hope somebody reading this smacks me on the back of the head with a shovel.

Just swing away and leave me face down on the ground.

I'm sure the decoupage addicts will be incensed, but I don't care. I'm not in a very good mood.

Because this is taking some getting used to. I didn't expect it to be this way, but it is, with the boys going away soon and all this freedom awaiting us, I'm overwhelmed.

So I grit my teeth and smile as we hear more about all the newfound freedoms that will be available to us:

Like brunches on the weekends, camping trips, lectures, theater at the drop of a hat, concerts and learning bonsai since I'll have all that time on my hands.

Or perhaps writing a novel about a crooked city, or taking real estate seminars, even learning Esperanto since you never know when you'll need it to communicate with random diplomats.