Contrasts

I do love contrasts - winter and summer, light and dark, busy and idle, even sad and happy on the age old premise that you need one to recognise the other.

This week began with the coming to stay of adult children: first my elder daughter and her husband, arriving on Sunday and taking possession of the cottage. The two younger ones still have rooms in the house that we describe as theirs, even though they have long left home. The two older ones who have been away even longer tend to stay in the cottage when they come and I think like the sense of a place to themselves as well the company and the buzz of the full house. Outside it was cold as ice and stone, the wind cutting through your clothes in the few yards from house to cottage, and Emma came looking for a fleece to borrow. "I always forget you need an inside and an outside fleece to wear here." We smiled at each other. We don't get much time together these days and it is precious.

A couple of days later younger son, his wife and six month old Labrador arrived. They have not been married long and the shine of early married life is lovely to see. They are so easy to have about, slotting in with minimum fuss, even Flora the puppy, very well behaved and glossy black and all of a wiggle with excitement. Now there are six of us, a full table and a sense of something going on all the time, people to talk to, someone always on hand to help in the kitchen.

And the following day younger daughter comes with her best friend whose husband is away in the RAF, both bouncing around full of life and talk and laughter. The place is full, but not to bursting. There are walks to go on and hens to feed and yet more cooking and some really splendid meals as Emma and Maddy and Hannah take over this meal or that, relegating me to the pleasingly mindless role of skivvy and potato peeler. They will now all be here for New Year with additional very welcome visits from Ian's father and elder son for an even fuller table. I love it, I love time around the big table with good food and talk and someone coming round the garden with me and the dog walking and the playing of Trivial Pursuit, starting reluctantly but quickly plunging into wild competitiveness and taking the mick.

We have a bonfire on New Year's Eve and the night is so clear and cold that the stars are hard and bright in a black sky. You can see Orion the Hunter and the Great Bear and my son in law shows me Sirius, the Dog Star.

And then they go, pretty much in the order they came so that by Saturday night we are on our own again. And you know what? That is lovely too. I love it when they come and I love the house full and glorious bustle of it all, and I love it when they go too. Peace descends. Ian and I talk to each other and share a bottle of bubbly by the fire. The cat resumes her rightful place on the sofa, no longer a source of fascinated delight to the dog. It is good to have the place back to ourselves.

And today I am on my own. Ian has gone to pick up his sister and will stay away overnight. This afternoon it was snowing very slightly, just pinpricks of snow in the wind as I went to start clearing the cottage. It was very, very quiet: outside the scratching and clucking of hens in the leaf litter under the trees, inside only the hum and whirr of the washing machine on the first of the many loads of putting-the-house-straight washing. Under those noises the silence lay deeply across the valley. The hills and the sky were shades of grey and white, merging together at the sky line. A tiny wren followed me through the kitchen garden as I went to give the hens more water, skittering in and out of the hedge, like a tiny feathered ball. The hens' water was frozen and the ice had to be knocked out onto the grass and the butts frozen and unresponsive when I went for more.

And it is good. It was great to have them all around and to share myself about: now a walk up the hill with younger son, now a chat with older son, missing his little boy away in Canada, now a companionable hour in the kitchen with the girls, now a walk out to the field to see what Ian was doing. But it is also overwhelmingly peaceful to be by myself, family antennae quietened, just me and the cat, just until tomorrow. Contrasts. Lovely.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth, I always eagerly anticipate your latest offering and as usual am not disappointed - a lovely piece of writing about a feeling I'm sure many of us share - and yes, weren't the stars beautiful on New Year's Eve? We watched them as we lit and sent up into the blackness two sky candle-balloons, thinking of my absent sons, our newest family member still cosy inside her mum, and other members of our family no longer on this earth.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sue, thank you, what a lovely thing to say. I love the idea of your candle balloons too!

    ReplyDelete
  3. a lovely hubble bubble of folk and then the calm - that bubbly by the fire sounded just the ticket!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful description of the family gathering.
    I too, had a very busy time with my daughter & grandsons and now they have gone home & we feel slightly bereft.
    Tomorrow I have to work so the feeling won't last & now the catching up of housework will commence!
    So much of what you said is relevant to me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a lovely thing to read, Elizabeth. I could imagine your house - pulsing if one could see it from the outside! Loved the idea of young people taking over the kitchen - why oh why haven't mine decided that they'd like to do this? We played Trivial Pursuit several times over the holidays - lots of laughter around the kitchen table with that!
    Thank you so much for sharing your cosy family time with us.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with all of your other readers that this was a joy to read. I love the family gatherings that happen around the Christmas/New Year holidays. We had many comings and goings as well and the full and empty feelings you describe are so accurate.

    Happy new Year!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a lovely post, and what a "calm" it gave me... thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lovely narrative Elizabeth.
    Happy New Year to you.
    K

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks everyone. I never know whether other people feel the same "love to see them go, love to have the house back to ourselves" as we do!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hello Elizabeth, Happy New Year to You! What a beautiful post, and I suspect many of us share similar sentiments. I visited my family over christmas, and it was wonderful dipping in to their homes, and the joy of being surrounded by those you love. It's also wonderful to be back in the peace and quiet of my home, many miles from theirs. As you say, contrasts! Thanks for sharing.
    Diana x

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love the way you write about the simplest things in such an evocative way. With our house full of children, dogs, and cats, there is rarely peace. The children were gone for two days and just returned home yesterday. I can just begin to imagine my life when they are all gone, full of quiet, peace, and lovely, comforting routine. You make it all sound heavenly.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Super post - just echoing our own 'holidays' - bursts of busy followed be contemplation.

    We had the merest sprinkling of snow today too - like granulated sugar. The temperature still hasn't risen above zero. (Perhaps this would be n opportune moment to start a weather log...) And the stars - wow!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Lovely blog as ever Elizabeth, I did enjoy and I understand how you feel.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Elizabeth, that was so lovely.

    I have never had husband or children, yet have had many fine friends and am close to a brother.

    When I read of your Christmas gathering and then the dispersion, and all the love and trading of generations that can take place, I just love to see that possibility. It really does cheer me and then, to see what you write of the sky and stars above. That shows a very, very big picture.

    How I thank you for this lovely post. Wishing you a very Happy New Year. xo

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your posting. May the whole year be as full of contrasts and may all of them be good.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Elizabeth, once again you sound just like me. Even here we have times to ourselves where just Dave and I curl up by the fire and listen to the silence. Rare, but treasured nonetheless. It is all good isn't it and the more so for the contrasts as you so rightly say. Lovely, lovely blog. Happy New Year xx

    ReplyDelete
  17. How lovely, Elizabeth, to have such a wonderfully large family! Our daughter lives not far away, so we went to her house for Christmas Day, but my two grandsons spent Christmas in New York with their father. My, was it quiet! Though our dog did his best to get things moving!! I used to love it years ago when we had a houseful at Christmas, with parents, sister, niece, nephew, etc. but now we are the "oldies" and go to the young ones!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you, Elizabeth, for this lovely post and for sharing about your life so eloquently. I resad this while eating my lunch, and could imagine very clearly everything that you wrote about. And now it is all over for another year! But what lovely memories. Many thanks x

    ReplyDelete
  19. You put the moments of life that matter into lyrical words. A wonderful piece of writing... thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  20. What a lovely sense of contentment that had. Of appreciating things in their own way, in the here and now and not yearning for things that are not.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I think everything I was going to say has already been said! Elizabeth you have an extraordinary ability to eloquently express feelings we all seem to share - this in itself is an eye-opener and a bond between those of us who have as yet never met.

    My best wishes to you and your family this New Year.

    ReplyDelete
  22. You have a way with words, Elizabeth. Beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a lovely time you have had, the way you have written this I have completly fallen in love to where you are, mind you, I love your holiday cottage, it looks so lovely. fiona

    ReplyDelete
  24. Lovely pictires painted Elizabeth!
    Have a Happy New Year and hope to bump into you in my little city one of these days!!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yes, I know that feeling well - when they have gone and you can reclaim the house again and meals are suddenly easy to prepare and when you are not chased and shamed by your daughter's efficiency and the general athleticism of the young. But then the old are as bad, cluttering up your house, demanding entertainment and baking and log fires and endless flows of alcoholic beverages. I can see the case for being a hermit! But then to whom would you tell tales of the stars you'd seen?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Elizabeth, you live in such a gorgeous place. You capture the landscape well in your words and photos. It sounds like you had a good holiday season of visitors. We had a lot of that too. I agree that it is really nice having visitors but also nice to have some peace and quiet when they leave.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks for visiting my blog especially to new people. I will try to get to get over to yours too (assuming I can get rid of work and the vast to do list, or probably even if I dont!).

    ReplyDelete
  28. You sound to have had a splendid Christmas.
    Always wonderful to see family, and now to sink back into the peace of dull domesticity with only one other.

    ReplyDelete
  29. It all sounds idyllic. Happy New Year, Elizabeth!

    ReplyDelete
  30. There is nothing - NOTHING - like the embrace (literal and metaphorical) of family.

    ReplyDelete
  31. A lovely story of your family. I love your description of the fullness of the family, and the stillness afterward. I will come visit again soon.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Contrasts indeed. There is nothing like having a houseful of people you love and then appreciating the silence when they have all gone and you can put things in order and mull over all that has been said and done. Lovely. This post gave me a nice warm feeling. Liked the idea of a bonfire on New years eve.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Lovely post. As the father of two young children (11 and 7) I will be in that position in a few years when they leave the nest and come back over Christmas or New Year. And I, too, love contrasts.

    Thank you very much indeed.

    Greetings from London.

    ReplyDelete
  34. How did I miss this? Sorry, I think it was due to combo of visitors over New Year and pre-op nerves. Still, it was good to catch up. That's a very beautiful and evocative piece of writing.

    (ps, trivial point on weight. Yes, it's half the reason I keep running - so that I don't have to worry about the weight.)

    ReplyDelete
  35. What a superb blog - a completel pleasure to read.

    ReplyDelete
  36. so readable and grown-up and eloquent, Elizabeth! Excellent stuff, truly.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!

Popular Posts