Courtesy Vicky Piper
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August 16, 2018 02:20 PM

Though many of Vicky and Jeff Piper’s friends were worried how they would feel once their kids officially flew the coop, the couple would like everyone to know their “empty nest” is off to a great start!

After the parents dropped off their son, Cameron, at Saginaw Valley State University last week, they returned to a child-free home for the first time in two decades. Though Vicky, 48, admits tears were shed after Cameron’s departure, she and Jeff, 50, had long talked about what their newfound free time would allow them to do — which means many more date nights!

“My husband and I had been really talking about what life would look like for us,” Vicky — whose daughter, Caitlyn, also left for college last year — tells PEOPLE. “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.’ “

In the days that followed, the couple was inundated with calls and texts from friends and family members checking in on how they were doing, and that’s when Jeff came up with the idea of using an abandoned bird’s nest in their backyard as a prop for a photograph. The nest, he said, was reflective of the change that had just occurred in their home.

Courtesy Vicky Piper
Vicky Piper

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Vicky — a realtor from Springboro — then grabbed the chalkboard they used for Cameron’s graduation and wrote “empty nest” and the date on it, since that’s what “all of the millennials” do for their announcements, she says while laughing. The two then called a friend to help them take a few pictures on her iPhone.

“We thought it was so funny. We were just cracking up,” Vicky recalls of their spontaneous photoshoot. “The two of us we thought we’d find it incredibly funny, but nobody else would.”

But Vicky was mistaken, because after she posted the pictures on her Facebook, they quickly went viral, garnering some 195,000 likes and 44,000 shares on the platform. Many commenters even tagged their own photographers in the post in hopes of booking their own ’empty nest’ photoshoot!

When Cameron and Caitlyn saw the pictures, they both found it hysterical, says Vicky.

“They both said, ‘You guys are having way too much fun without us!’ ” she says. “As a family, we have a lot of fun, but they thought perhaps we would just be sitting around and doing nothing!”

Vicky and Jeff with their two children, Caitlyn, 20, and Cameron, 18
Vicky Piper

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The couple says they are looking forward to traveling and the many dates to come. But most of all, they are proud of who their children are becoming.

“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,” Vicky says. “But now when they leave you just have to sit back like, ‘You know what? We’ve done well.’ “

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