After two decades with kids in the house, Vicky and Jeff Piper took their son Cameron to college – and came home to an empty nest. Rather than feeling sad, though, the couple decided to celebrate the occasion in an unexpected way.
Before that day, the Pipers had had at least one child living at home for two decades. But their eldest daughter, 20-year-old Caitlyn, moved to Hillsong College in 2017. And in August 2018 their son Cameron, 18, would start at Saginaw Valley State University.
Real estate agent Vicky, 48, told People magazine that Cameron’s drop-off day was difficult – there were tears, she said. But she and Jeff, 50, had always dreamed of this newfound freedom, too.
“My husband and I had been really talking about what life would look like for us,” Vicky said. “He was just like, ‘I would love to just be able to date you all over again. It’s going to be good, and we’ll have time to go do stuff for us.’”
Nonetheless, the pair fielded many phone calls after they dropped Cameron off at college. Their loved ones wanted to make sure that the Pipers were managing to cope with their empty nest. The couple wanted to assure everyone they were fine – and this caused Jeff to formulate a plan.
Jeff remembered something from the Pipers’ backyard – a bird’s nest, long since deserted by the creatures that had created it. And while he went out to grab the object in question, Vicky found a chalkboard that had been a prop at their son’s graduation.
On it, Vicky inscribed the words “empty nest” and marked the day’s date, the way “all of the millennials” do when they want to mark their own milestones, she said. And with that, all the Pipers needed was a photographer to capture their idea.
Next, the Pipers stood in front of the camera with their chalkboard and their empty nest. Vicky subsequently posted the resulting images on her Facebook account and wrote about how different today’s generation is when it comes to sharing their family-related news.
“Twenty years ago we didn’t have gender reveal parties, portraits in beautiful fields with baby shoes to announce a pregnancy. Nor did we have baby photos on a blanket with a circle around a number showing how old they were,” Vicky wrote on Facebook.
Nowadays, everything from a baby’s gender to a child’s first day of school can become a reason to post online. And the Pipers decided to follow suit. “So, in honor of our next chapter, here you go,” Vicky wrote, along with the image of her and Jeff’s “empty nest” announcement.
Vicky told People that she and Jeff didn’t expect their post to garner much attention. “We thought it was so funny. We were just cracking up,” she said. “The two of us thought we’d find it incredibly funny, but nobody else would.”
Quickly, though, it became clear that their photoshoot resonated with people across Facebook. Just one month after Vicky shared the trio of images, in fact, they’d received more than 215,000 likes, 20,000 comments and 48,000 shares.
Moreover, the Pipers even inspired others to take similar photos to commemorate their own empty nests. Carolyn Carlson Naval shared hers and wrote, “Thanks so much for the amazingly fun idea! Love to all the Empty Nesters out there!”
The Pipers’ kids loved the photos, too. “They both said, ‘You guys are having way too much fun without us!’” Vicky explained. “As a family, we have a lot of fun, but they thought perhaps we would be sitting around and doing nothing.”
In fact, just like his parents, the Pipers’ son Cameron highlighted his own life change in response to his mom’s Facebook post. With the help of his college, he took pictures with his own sign that read, “I’ve left the nest and landed at SVSU.”
Vicky, of course, loved her son’s take – and couldn’t believe how much the rest of the world had appreciated her own post. As a result, four days after she’d initially shared her pictures, she took to Facebook once again – this time to express her awe and gratitude.
“We sit here completely humbled and shocked [by] the impact of our viral post. You can say the last four days have been a quick lesson on producers, timelines, different styles of interviews and the mystery why some things go viral and others don’t,” Vicky wrote.
Vicky added that the interviewers from People “called while I was in the dressing room at TJ Maxx. The whole dressing room heard the interview.” She also stated that she and Jeff kept discussing the same topic after seeing each headline.
“We talk about hope, love and how God is so good,” Vicky said. And those conversations were likely to continue as the Pipers began life as empty nesters, exploring the world side-by-side, just like they’d done before they’d brought two children into their lives.
“We’ve raised our kids, and now they’re truly spreading their wings to fly. And we made mistakes along the way but, ultimately, when the kids had their ups and downs they were in the nest, and we helped them through it. But now, when they leave you just have to sit back like, ‘You know what? We’ve done well,’” Vicky concluded.