I concentrated so hard on cutting the butternut on Monday night, watching the serrated but blunt knife slice a little strip off each cut circle. It didn’t help. My eyes started stinging (no, not onion) and my heart felt a distinct unsettling. I’d just waved goodbye to my eldest child, my only son, as he reversed out the driveway to start a new life on the other side of town. I was pathetic really.
‘It’s not sad, is it Mum?’ he said. ‘It’s exciting. I’ll be back.’
‘Yes, tomorrow’, My smile was skew. ‘For supper, if you like?’
But I knew the truth.
He’s finally moved out of home and as much as he’s just twenty, thirty minutes down the road, it’s a new home. He pays for it himself. It’s not a student digs. He won’t be ‘home for the holidays.’ He has to apply for his leave days, fill out application forms to request his freedom, some leisure hours, some respite from corporate life.
In reality it’s really the closest place he could have chosen. But still, I can’t kid myself. The stark fact is this: our lives, our routines have been irrevocably altered.
There was a time, a really long time, when my days tumbled into each other with regular routine, all looking pretty similar to the last. They stacked up like a large Lego structure, each new piece fitting into and onto what became our full and fantastic family life. Four children. School, school, more school. Food, food, more food. Driving back and forth, negotiating this and that with equal amounts of love and diminishing patience, shouting at the dinner table, running out the door …invariably late. The days we all sang on our way to school? The best.
My oldest of three girls, was really the first to ‘leave home’. Four years ago now she started varsity in the town not far from home. And of course she still comes home often. How lucky we are! But a good forty-five minute drive along a highway to get home that cannot be described as the Mother City’s best feature. Taxis ferrying passengers at breakneck speeds, ten- ton trucks and heavy traffic and all. Oh Lord, I nearly landed in the ditch myself not long ago. A bloody taxi slammed on breaks to annoy the little car in front of me one rainy day as I headed to the Stellenbosch library along that N2 to work on my next project. I watched in horror as the little car skidded close to me and then brakes having clearly jammed, the car hurtled off the road across the slow lane, bumping over the patchy grass and sand turning over and over and over until I saw in my rear- view mirror how it landed on its roof. The taxi had long sped off. I shook as I grabbed my phone to dial ….who?? 911?? What’s the damn number anyway?
They say you must go grey gracefully.
Our household will look a little different now. We’re now four for supper. Three years left of school for our youngest one and a final year – matric again! – for my number three. So I won’t see my son as often as I have been used to for so many years (bar one when he did a short digs sojourn) sitting at the dining room table when I pass it several times a day on my way from my study to the kitchen. Or hanging out on the couch with his laptop while working online. Covid was kind (to me, to us) in that regard. It gave us virtually another whole year together where he wasn’t allowed on campus or in his new fancy offices where he started his first paid position at the beginning of this new year.
I won’t hear him repeat as often the same (wrong) lines of a song with his distinctive discordant tone while watching the coffee beans fall through the grinder when he takes his coffee break. I won’t see him come upstairs in the morning, still not quite awake, unconsciously drawing his hand over the top of hair to position it in place. I may even miss his unsubtle poops! Probably not.
But whatever, he has moved out of home.
My husband walked in on Monday eve while I was slaying the butternut after fetching the two youngest girls from school (YAY! School now happens every day with full uniforms and all- a small semblance of normality) and took one brief look at me. Said nothing. He finds it hard to deal with my emotion. He’s dealing with his own emotion himself. I know that. ‘Who’s going to watch ‘The Office’ with me, I heard him say to my son several times in the last few days. It’s been their ritual for nights now, my two boys side by side on the couch.
The girls dumped their bags and went straight upstairs briefly but came down two minutes later. ‘Mum can we eat please! I’m starving! Can’t you please get supper ready a little earlier? I hate eating so damn late every night.
I’m not good at prepping meals while the sun’s still up.
Just before I tackled the butternut, I had cautiously, with several deletions and edits of words pre-empting the post, shared a picture of my new book coming out next month. This moment was… how shall I say…momentous for me. A true highlight of my writing life.
I could feel my heart pumping. Today was the day. 1 March. The start of Women’s History Month. (well in the USA at least) Women have HERstory to tell. Millions of women. There is no time to waste. And I could not hold out for one more minute! Time MARCHES on!
But then I heard him call to me from downstairs. Just one minute after I’d shared this cover.
‘Mum, I’m nearly ready to go. Can you just help me get some stuff into the car.’
I was in denial.
Don’t even try to pacify me. Don’t tell me ‘yes, but at least he’s just down the road! In the same city! My children are spread all over the world! I don’t even know when I’m going to see my son again. It’s been over a year already.’
I can only empathise. I cannot imagine standing at the exit gates at the airport watching my son leave for good. I would crumble into tiny specks.
I carried on with the rest of the butternut. Browned the chicken fillets. My Stellies daughter was here for an extra night or two this week. Still five around the table.
Not long thereafter I heard my phone buzzing. Mum signed an offer to sell her property. This year would have been 29 that she has lived there. It’s been our April/December holiday family spot this long. Every year. A beautiful quiet stretch of country life, 8kms above the beach of Wilderness up the Serpentine Pass in the rural reaches named Hoekwil. A rambling plot, understated family home, a river meandering along it’s boundary a long, long way down at the bottom. We’ve never even walked half of it. But there it was. For all this time. Part of my story.
The thought that she should sell took hold in December. Vaguely. Slowly.
‘It’s time to move, Mum,’ we’ve been telling her. ‘It’s not safe anymore (there’s a much longer story here, not now) but of course, the ankle op and and and.
‘It’ll be better for us all,’ we coerced. ‘We won’t have to worry about you alone up on the hill anymore! You need more help, more security.’
And suddenly, on Monday, her home was sold.
My son was gone.
We ate our chicken and butternut. Stacked the dishwasher.
When the kitchen was vaguely clean, I ambled over to my phone on the charger. There was a Whatsapp on my phone from someone I hadn’t heard from in while.
‘Hi Dom,’ she wrote, not sure if you know but X, (a mutual friend) is now critically ill. She’s fading by the day…
One minute you’re building a Lego empire.
And the next…
8am: I wondered up and down the usual aisles at the supermarket this morning. Picked up the four tins of dogfood on special. Threw in the toilet paper, the tray of 30 eggs, the fruit, veggies, bread, washing powder. I eyed the tabasco and half reached up to grab it off the shelf.
My son loves tabasco! But I didn’t buy any this time. Perhaps he’ll buy his own?
TODAY, WEDNESDAY 3rd
Today I was going to tackle my new bookshelf! Start reorganising, clearing and decluttering.
And then I walked past this!
Let me explain.
Sheba was our seventeen- year- old rescue dog. She had had a stroke on 18 January and it was her time to fly with the angels. I collected her ashes about three weeks ago.
On the same day, it struck me that I hadn’t collected the ashes of our beloved Frankie who we lost a year ago. It’s on the blog of March 2020. I was supposed to do a TedTalk that day I recall. I did the talk. We put Frankie down. And then Covid.
Fetching the ashes wasn’t a priority then.
So I collected them both on the same day. Now about three weeks ago.
On that day, I then went into the garage because …well, I still had the ashes of Sammy, our long long, loooong passed Collie Cross who’s ashes were STILL in the garage.
I had never quite found the time/right opportunity/ceremonial spirit/will to let go/ organisational skills to get all six of us together to send her off properly.
‘Wait for me when I’m home again before you scatter those ashes! he laughed when I eyed them as he walked out the front door.
I think I’ll have to ensure that he’s home again this weekend! I cannot bear to see those urns there for another week!
In the meantime, I’m slowly learning to let go.
For MARCH on we must.
Some book reviews and more news on my book to be released mid- April!
Please watch this space !