A flurry of exam results, celebrations, book-buying, bag-packing, car-loading, kisses and hugs, and our daughter, Kitty, is now settled into her university accommodation. Overnight, the average age of our household has gone up. The numbers of showers being taken and apples being eaten have gone down. There is less fruit tea being drunk and less pasta being cooked on the hoof. There are fewer questions about what’s for dinner. And the chair by the window in the breakfast room is no longer occupied by a long-haired, freshly-showered, apple-eating young woman reading a book, a cup of blackberry tea at her elbow, a pan of pasta bubbling away in the near distance. The coats she left in the under stairs cupboard still smell of her perfume. There are photos of her on the walls, as well as pictures she drew when she was in Infant School, but I haven’t kissed my daughter, or held her in my arms, or heard her singing in the shower, or arguing with her brother, for almost two whole weeks.
That isn’t to say that I’m weeping into my pillow every night. Yes, I miss her, but I’m also fiercely proud of all she’s achieved to date. A quick peep at her social media feeds has reassured me that she’s made some new friends and is *not* spending every waking hour alone in her room. OK, maybe it’s been more than a quick peep.
The first Friday after she left, Andrew and I booked tickets for the cinema. We ate dinner and headed out to Bristol. How long has it been since the two of us went somewhere that had nothing to do with either of our children? A long time. No party to pick up from, no friend’s house to drop off at, no Saturday job to collect from, no school, college or university to investigate and advise about. A long, long time.
“We have to try to remember what it was like before,” says Andrew.
“That’s impossible,” I say.
Who can remember that far back? Are we even the same people any more? This is nothing like it was before, this is entirely new. Was it my imagination or did we keep on glancing sideways at each other in the car? Who *is* that person? It’s quite exciting.
Andrew chose a film I hadn’t heard of, ‘Daphne’, and I really enjoyed it. It’s about a single woman in her early thirties who works in a restaurant, who seems talented enough to be a sous chef although she hasn’t been promoted, perhaps because of her erratic life of casual sex, substance abuse and depression, mixed with a complicated relationship with her mother and difficulties with connecting with other people. Sometimes the film was darkly funny, sometimes achingly sad. I couldn’t help but project myself into Daphne’s story. Once or twice I felt like crying as I identified with her loneliness, which is how I often felt in the long years I lived alone, before I met Andrew. Perhaps being on our own without our children reminded me of that time. Weirdly, I was 31 (the same age as the character Daphne) when I stopped being single. I confess to feeling hugely grateful for my relationship with Andrew and happy that I’m no longer single. At the same time, I felt for the Daphnes of the world and wished there was a way of making everything better for them.
It felt deeply indulgent and extravagant to lose myself in the film’s narrative, something I used to mindlessly do in the days before I became responsible for two children. Perhaps this was what Andrew meant about remembering how it was before.
Anyway, I’m rubbish at film reviews but I loved this film and think it deserves more attention. Look out for it!
We managed a walk in the countryside on our first weekend ‘alone’. One thing I love about Andrew is that we always have things to talk about. Unless one of us (usually me) doesn’t feel like talking, and that’s fine as well.
I feel properly old now, properly grown up. You can’t stay child-like once your child has left for university. You’re not really supposed to be child-like when they’re living at home but you can do a good job of kidding yourself you are still a child when you’re surrounded by the jokes, the gags, the how-to-apply-eyeliner-tips, the pranks, the slang, the gossip, the noise, the music, the box sets doing the rounds, the new books that everyone is reading, the Snapchat stories, the Instagram filters, the new hair, the new clothes, the shouting, the tears, the chasing all over the place, the lack of sleep, the mess.
I miss all that. Then again, I don’t miss all that. Tidiness and peacefulness and a quiet house is really, really wonderful. Anyway, our son’s still at home, so I can still be half a kid, and there’s still a fair amount of mess.
Only a couple of weeks until I’m meeting Kitty for lunch. In the meantime, I promise not to look at her Instagram for at least half an hour.
5 thoughts on “Notes from a half-empty nest”
Lovely post. I found it quite moving.
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Mine left this year too. What a change. Happy that she’s independent and thriving but sad when I feel she no longer needs me even when I know she does.
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And now there’s a new stage- when they come back after graduation and you’re part of another on going party… then they all head off. Again! The art of losing etc
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Wonderful post. Enjoy yourself!
I’m on my second year with my daughters in their second and third year at university. I can totally relate to the “Checking their Instagram “.
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