Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Time moves on and the Ploughboy has departed to plough his own deep furrow in pastures new. The groves of academe beckon, and we have deposited him in a city of not quite dreaming spires far away.
I gave him a quiet talk before he went, explaining the perils of the tumble dryer (as we are not possessed of such technological marvels), and he agreed with me that it is a Good Thing to have a slack mother, because it means that he is familiar with the workings of a washing machine, has been making his own bed (or not, as the case may be) for many years now, and is quite at ease with the concept that dirty clothes will gradually mount up on the floor, and dust accumulate on horizontal surfaces of all kinds, unless he chooses to make a personal intervention in the matter.
From now on his stays with us will be only temporary; his room has become a mere staging post and lacks its former air of permanence. I suppose I have had time to become accustomed to this as it has been a gradual process over the last year since he left school; he has travelled to Europe and the Antipodes (yes, I sobbed at his departure), and though nominally at home this summer, the long hours of farm work have meant that he has been absent more than present.
In many ways the house now seems oddly empty after so many years of constant cacophony: the General is merely biding his time before spreading his wings, and ventures down from his eyrie only for culinary sustenance. On many occasions over the past few months our loud and noisy family seems to have shrunk to just a shadow of its former bouncing self, now consisting of little Princess Bunchy and her aged parents.
And what am I going to miss particularly about the Ploughboy? I think, on reflection, it will mainly be socks.
This is a boy whose Ipod sock is exactly that - an old sock. (And please don't tell me to knit him one: to my darling sons, expressing a desire to knit them something is perceived as a threat, not an act of affection. When I asked the Ploughboy a couple of years ago if there were anything he would like me to make him for Christmas, he replied, "Well, you could knit me an Ipod." Not an Ipod sock.)
The Ploughboy's presence in the house is signified by a trail of discarded socks in the oddest of places. These are sometimes accompanied by grubby sweatshirts, or mud-caked rucksacks.
And if you pick this debris up to move it to a place where it constitutes less of a trip hazard, then it usually emits small pieces of straw, or possibly hop petals, or maybe even a shower of heavy-duty agricultural dust.
Then, of course, there are also the muddy handmarks on the towels, but they were even less photogenic than the socks. And his habit of sitting very untidily on the sofa (I know he does this by the squashed and rearranged cushions, the crumpled sofa throw, and the discarded buttons lying askew.)
There are the work shorts which remain hanging on the line for day after day, until suddenly they are needed again.
And at least I won't be woken up at 6.30am by the roar of the tractor starting up. But then again, I won't hear that low rumble approaching across the orchard, signifying the Ploughboy's return at the end of the day.
It seems only yesterday that the Ploughboy's presence was marked by tractors marching across the sitting room floor, and earthworks in the flower beds - now his toys are bigger, and the games are much the same, but they are undertaken farther afield. (I will send a small prize to the first person who tells me what this toy is! EDIT: Guessed correctly by Poppy Cottage - it is a pheasant feeder.)
But I still have farm machinery ploughing up the matting, and combine harvesters parked up under the chair. Princess Bunchy's pastimes demonstrate a penchant for things agricultural, just like her big brother.
The Ploughboy's furry friend also shows herself well capable of continuing the family tradition of excavating the garden, although she prefers to fill the holes with nice chewy wood, rather than Brittans farm machinery.
So there is some consolation for me.
And as a consolation for you with your hands full of recalcitrant toddlers, and children who show an aversion for the written word, and an unwillingness to sit behind a desk and concentrate - this big boy was once just the same. Once I tore my hair out at his contrary ways, and battled with him over Biff and Chip, and listened to a teacher complain to me that he sat in her lessons and made tractor noises while she spoke.
But it all turned out all right in the end, as I am sure that it will for you: he passed the important exams with flying colours, found his vocation (which, as we had always suspected it would, involves tractors), and has set off eagerly into the big, wide world.
So treasure those little people whilst they are with you, revel in that little hand nestled in yours, for the years roll on, all too fast; the little people become larger, and stride off into the future with barely a backward glance.