These days, my house is big, empty, silent, clean - ish, and breathing a sigh of relief. I have had a house full of children for nearly 20 years. Now I only have the one. There is an Absence of Offspring in every room, there are only hints that they were ever here. They have taken their stuff and left their bedrooms bare, the bedding folded neatly (by me. It looked like a gypsy camp the day they left) on the beds and I have put their remaining clothes and objects (the ones I could bear to pick up; the fossilised pizza and melting socks etc I used tongs to pick up and throw away) into strong storage boxes and piled them up for later use.
And now, the mornings are easy. There is only one child left to get ready for school. Only one child to cook and shop for. I am used to doing things on an industrial scale, my children love to eat and so Tescos was a major outing. Now, three for the price of two seems excessive. I am like an old person shopping for herself and her cat. Except I wouldn't feed my 12 Year Old Whiskers, he would rebel.
I am more free now than I have ever been. Maybe because before having children you have no idea of what it means to be last on the list. So now, I understand the stretch of day in between Son going to school and Son coming home. It doesn't have to be filled with organising, maintaining, cleaning, preparing, fetching and carrying and as they got older, listening, to three larger than life independant thinking, rebelling, creative, maverick, difficult, wonderful children. And fitting in the painting and studio life in the little spaces they didn't manage to fill up. Before, the joy of taking a few hours to read and be alone was unmatched. Before, getting emails done and sitting and dreaming for half an hour was bliss. Now, with the bulk of my work done and the children gone, there are plenty of half hours. Plenty of bits of time to indulge if I want to, getting the emails done is only a drop in the ocean in my work life, instead of being a tremendous achievement.
I feel I am due this peace. The children are leaving home, and starting again elsewhere. But so am I. I am starting again, I am suddenly full of time to spend, a house that is so big and silent, I can hear the breeze from the open windows blowing through the empty rooms. There is no music, no physical presence, just silence and a wonderful peace. The emptiness is healthy and good.
Both my large and wonderful and hungry and noisy and opinionated teenagers are safe and happy with other members of my very large family, and getting on with the next stage of their lives. There is no doubt that life as a single mother for the last twenty years has been hard but Boy! My three children, including the sprouting and budding 12 Year Old Son, are a total wonder to me. They are almost too good for me, they have arrived as nearly adults and take my breath away sometimes with their wisdom, energy and depth of character. If I needed to be reassured that I am worthwhile, I would look at my three children and think Gosh. I made them. I must be Fab.
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