It’s quiet here. Too quiet.
Today is one of those peaceful days where the kids are at camp — they go on sporadic days throughout the summer — and for six whole hours it’s just me in a quiet, messy house. This is the first summer that all four have gone to camp, so it’s quite a new experience for me, to be alone for such a long time after eight years of parenting.
On the first day of camp, I was a quivering pile of anxiety. The reason? Mitzi had been home from the hospital for just a week, and I was still — we were still — adjusting to her new life as a diabetic. Could I let her go out of my supervision? That day involved a field trip to a splash park. Could I trust her to test her blood when she had to? To eat exactly what I had sent? Could I trust the very trustworthy staff (the camp being at the preschool we’ve sent the kids to for the past five years) to know what to do if Mitzi’s sugars were off? That day I sat in front of the computer, working/not working, surfing the internet, waiting for the phone calls that came occasionally to report that all continued to be well.
And it was. Mitzi is being responsible and I send her off knowing that she’s never that far from Ray or I, really, no matter where the field trip, and everyone knows what to do.
Now I settle into my kid-free days with a little more ease. I used to have big plans for what I’d get done while they were gone, but now I just relax. Take the day. This morning I lay on the couch and listened to a Harry Potter audiobook for an hour. Chores will get done, but later. Now it’s just me, the ticking clock, and the clacking of my fingers on the keyboard.
But it’s too quiet. When the four are here, it’s loud, filled with the sound of instruments and toys and bickering and illicit couch-bouncing. A hundred times a day I remember that old commercial — “Calgon, take me away!” and long for the silence of being alone. And when it comes, it’s nice, yes, but not right.
Last Sunday the kids and I came home after a vacation at my parents’ house. You’d think that a week with the grandparents would give me some Mommy Time (free babysitting and all of that), but it doesn’t. Mostly because I like my parents and enjoy visiting with them, but also because the kids have many activities that they HAVE to do when we are there, so Mom and I spend a lot of time indulging them. Well, Mom indulges — I drive. We had a great week of museums, aquariums, cousin visits, backyard pool play, and terrorizing Mom’s new puppy.
When we got home, laden with leftovers and new toys and hundreds of pictures and memories to go with them, we were satisfied and exhausted. Coming home is great, especially when your favorite person in the world is there to greet you. I flipped on the computer, eager to show Ray what we did without him on vacation. Then, the bad news. The computer didn’t work. Turns out it has a fried logic board, and the cost to replace it is as much as a new computer, money we just do not have.
So I was without a computer for a day until Ray borrowed a laptop from work. Still, it’s not quite right. My routine is off — my bookmarks gone, my writing tucked away and hopefully intact in the old computer hard drive. It’s a restless feeling. Something is not right in my world. Even sitting on the couch to work — long a dream of mine to have a laptop! — feels wrong.
That’s what it’s like, the silence of the house when the kids are gone. Something is off. There’s a restlessness in my body even as I try to relax and enjoy my freedom.
I guess it’s a feeling that I could get used to, being alone while the family is out for the day. It’s one I will have to get used to at some point when they are older, first at school all day, then college, then when they move out. By then, the silence will be different. It will have crept up on me without my noticing, I guess, the way night falls in late summer time as you sit on the patio and let the kids stay up past bedtime and watch their games of firefly catching and hide-and-seek. You look up and it’s dark and you wonder when it happened.
The silence will one day be the norm. But not yet.