I woke this morning and the realisation that now only one body slept down the hall hit me. I got up and walked into the other two bedrooms and cried to see the stripped beds and carpet which, for the past two or so months, has been hidden by boxes and books and clothes and guitars and all the other paraphernalia that university students need - or think they need.
It's all gone now. Or almost all gone. Son#4's room looks almost sterile; Son#5's room still has soap, socks and tools on the floor - but it's better than what it's been.
They've gone back to uni, leaving their parents to survey their rooms with every increasing sadness and wonder (did they really cram that much stuff into one room?).
Next weekend it will only get worse. Next weekend, Son#3 leaves to start his new job and only five weeks after that, his new life as a husband.
Suddenly - and not for the first time - I have a longing to go back to those days when my children were all little. Back to those days when five warm bodies slept down the hall; when meal times always meant cooking for a crowd and there were rarely leftovers; when someone was always arguing that it wasn't their turn to do the dishes / feed the dog / pick up the doggy do / mow the lawns / tidy their room; when dirty laundry was always brought out after I'd set the washing machine going; when a slightly musty wet-towel smell always pervaded the bathroom; when, if I wanted total peace, I had to wait until everyone was asleep; and when bed time stories saw five children clambering up onto my bed to hear the latest instalment of the book we were reading.
Which got me thinking to some of the favourite books we have read over the years - many which had been my favourites as a child:
The Wishing Chair
The Three Musketeers
Green Eggs and Ham
The Railway Children
The Secret Garden
Little House on the Prairie
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Blue Above the Trees
Swiss Family Robinson
Anne of Green Gables
To Kill A Mocking Bird
And many which became new favourites:
Treasure in an Oatmeal Box
At the Back of the North Wind
In His Steps
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Accidental Detectives
A Cote of Many Colours
Goodnight Mister Tom
Especially, Goodnight Mister Tom, which naturally led to me thinking that I hadn't read it for a long time and so I went searching. Their bookcases look a little bare now - probably because they've taken some of their books with them - but this modern classic was still there almost hidden by some of the larger and heavier books now on the shelves. To my surprise (because I would have thought he would have taken every literary masterpiece with him), a quick look at the flyleaf revealed it was a gift to Son#2. However I suspect that once he's seen this post he'll want to reclaim it so I better go and read it.
While I have peace and quiet.
Please excuse me ...