Wednesday, 27 July 2011
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I’ve been sitting in my “Empty Nest” for some time now, having given birth to the first of my two children aged twenty and the second two years later. By my fortieth birthday they had flown the nest to go to university in Scotland, leaving me still a relatively young woman.
Thus recently jumping onto the roller-coaster that is my sister’s life, as I spent a week with her and her husband, four children and a long-eared spaniel named Otis, proved quite a contrast to the quiet, ordered life that has descended upon my once full nest. My sister Susan proved to be a blur of perpetual activity, as she tried manfully to keep up with the demands of four energetic schoolchildren and a round of packed lunches, sports day, end of term parties etc. I followed in her wake, finding my niche as chief dishwasher, trying in vain to reduce the neverending pile of dishes, seemingly reproducing in the sink.
Up to my elbows in suds my mind drifted back to an article I read recently on how some couples were opting to remain childless, choosing academia, the theatre and a busy social life over the hectic schedule of childrearing, with its soaring financial costs, that gradually squeeze out the selfish pursuits of the single couple. Were they right? One might think so at 11 o’clock at night, when we fell into bed exhausted, having negotiated the detritus of family life scattered from one end of the house to the other. No sleeping pills, massages or stress busting treatments required. Sleep was not the problem, it was getting up at 6.30am and starting again that was the challenge!
The sun was batheing the sports pitch with its early morning light, as we took our seats for the first race. The whistle blows and my nieces are off, as they race towards me I can’t possibly remain in my seat jumping up, my belongings fly everywhere. I find myself shouting, "Come on Esme, come on Maeve and Erin". A feeling of pride like nothing experienced in a theatre or gallery wells up inside and as they crash through the finishing line; the sound of their laughter is more up lifting than any applause.
Finally, Friday night finds me sitting on a canvas chair in the middle of a field. My sister and I huddle together relaxing at last, to the sound of a local rock band, emulating a somewhat scaled-down version of Glastonbury. In the cool evening air, the children keep warm by dancing to the music. At 10.15, just as darkness is starting to fall, the fire works begin. I clutch Erin to me as she climbs unto my knee and we wrap ourselves in a warm blanket, our eyes fixed on the sky above, as the music begins and Queen’s “It’s a Kind of Magic” fills the air. The first fireworks burst into the night sky. One after another they explode around us until we squeal with excitement. Suddenly above our heads a huge rocket lights up the sky, exploding into a million stars that fall around us like sparkling rain. All at once, I know why I had my children and why my sister gets up at 6.30 every morning to start another day.
As Erin and I are enveloped in a sea of twinkling stars there is no debate, only children can fill your world with this kind of magic!