It’s a funny feeling, this “empty-nesting”. Two children are now away doing real grown-up jobs, and one is away at Newcastle University, so it’s not full-on “empty”, but the end result is the same: this big old English farmhouse is going through one of its quiet stages.
And, by heck, at times the house was noisy. Those birthday parties. “You’ll never need a magician or a face painter,” Dad said when we moved in.
“This house has two sets of stairs and a full loop around the massive kitchen inglenook. That’s all you’ll need.” He was right, of course.
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We’d sit in the kitchen with a few other parents, occasionally raising our voices as another cohort crashed its deafening way past us, up the brown stairs, down the green stairs, down the hall, back through the old bread oven, and up the stairs again.
All the time we’d have half an ear cocked for tumbles and tears. After all, I fell down those steep brown stairs 50-something years ago, and still have the scar to show for it, creeping out from a receding hairline.
Harry Potter fans
The 25-year storm of raising a family has almost blown itself out. The house is still full of the after-effects, of course – what you might call the debris.
Good thing I was alone in the house. I sat down on the bottom step of the brown stairs, and had a little moment to myself, and a bit of a sniffle
The kitchen wall with heights carefully marked on, with measurements taken every quarter-birthday. They start at about three years old/3ft tall, and end with late teenage tail-off.
The two boys proved to be their grandfather’s grandsons, and headed well over 6ft, and Diana wisely stopped in the mid-5ft region.
There are the bedrooms still decorated with space rockets and racing cars. Bits of furniture still bear Harry Potter stickers – we owe Ms Rowling an enormous vote of thanks for making children read endlessly.
Then there are what you might call souvenirs. The “follow-on milk” tins, just perfect for stacking the assortment of kitchen table pens, and hoarding spare nozzle filters in the spray store.
I still have my harvest tea from a Transformers lunchbox, and occasionally eat my healthy salad off a Rambling Ted plate.
I really thought I was doing fine with the empty nesting. It’s just another stage in life’s long journey. I’ve had plenty of time to prepare for it. No problem at all.
And then I was doing an autumn oil change on the tractor. It was a bit early on the hours, but there wasn’t much else to do as the rain hammered down.
Under the brown stairs is the rag box, the final domestic resting place for assorted cloths and clothing before they head out for dipstick- and oil filter flange-wiping duties.
Out came a terry cotton towel, still as soft as ever, embroidered with a teddy bear in the corner, not seen since the days of six o’clock bathtimes, lashings of Sudocrem, and endless readings of Farmer Duck and Owl Babies.
Good thing I was alone in the house. I sat down on the bottom step of the brown stairs, and had a little moment to myself, and a bit of a sniffle. Not as much bawling as when I cracked my head open, but it wasn’t far off.
That’s why this Christmas is going to be extra special. They’ll all be home, snatching a few days’ holiday in their new full-on work schedules. It’ll be loud and frenetic, and the Racing Demon will be violent and controversial.
They’ll be gone too soon, the quiet will return, so I’m going to make the most of it. I hope you do too. Happy Christmas.