October 11, 2012

Thoughts of Home

As I look around this 1970's, boxy house with its four bedrooms, three bathrooms, large kitchen and yard, I wonder how long we will need a home of this size. In the not too distant future, with three children grown up, we and our youngest daughter will be rattling around by ourselves wondering what to do with all the space left behind when all of her siblings are out in the world beyond our happy home. But is it wise to downsize? I do not relish the thought of not having room enough for my kids and their friends to stay and be comfortable when they visit, or for grandchildren in the future, if God willing, there are to be some. But is that a good enough reason to hang onto, and look after, a big-ish house with a large yard? I've always dreamed of a three bedroom cottage with a wood stove and just enough room for a few guests around the table. Will there be one of those in our future? (There was one in our past.) Fortunately, I don't have to think seriously about it right now. We have a few years yet.

A cottage in the woods - made of gingerbread by our daughter

Our eldest, Ian came home for the day on Monday. He is able to do that because his home in Vancouver is only one hundred and twenty kilometers west of here and he can very easily hop on a Greyhound bus to make the trip home and back. He came home to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers - turkey sandwiches for lunch with scalloped potatoes on the side and pumpkin pie - and a late birthday supper of barbecued steak and Caesar Salad ( I supposed you've guessed by now that we are not vegetarians, at least not on the holidays). I turned 43 over a week ago, but despite all his good intentions my husband was not able to cook the dinner he'd planned for me that day, due to a flare-up of his herniated disc. However, feeling much better by Monday, my husband rose early with the girls to cook waffles topped with sauteed apples and whipped cream with a side of bacon - might as well go all out- while I drove to the bus depot to pick up Ian and bring him 'home'. In between the feasting our family of six went for a long walk on the farm roads, visited, drank tea in the afternoon while lounging on the living room couches watching episodes of Community on Netflix, and just enjoyed all being together. The day ended all too soon, and after a bit more visiting in the kitchen while we cleaned up, I drove Ian to the bus depot again, knowing it would not be too long before we saw each other again.

We are lucky that our first born and first to leave home lives so close. He is exactly where he wants to be, taking classes at a small college, living with great roommates in an access-to-everything-in-the-city location, working weekends in the guitar section of a music store, and finding inspiration for his life as an artist everywhere. But yet, he can come home or we can go to him quite easily. There is no guarantee the situation will be the same with our second son. He wants to study music and is deciding on which universities to apply to in this huge country of ours. Even though I want him to be close-ish to home like his brother, I know that he will have to go where he needs to go to be in the best music program for him. Not unlike my niece, who is studying ballet in Oregon...I know my sister misses her terribly, while feeling great pride in her daughter for following her dream.

Our third child wants to go to University right after she graduates from high school in 2014. Will she and her brothers come home for the summers? It remains to be seen and depends very much on the housing and employment they can get in their respective cities. And our youngest? Well, at this point she says she is going to live at home and take the theater program at our local university, to which she can bus or drive. She worries about us being lonely without her.

When I went away to University, I lived at home in the summer, working and saving up for the year ahead. My parents have lived in the same house since I was six years old. There is no danger of them 'rattling around' in their house, though. Theirs is not that kind of house, being built in the 1800's when not only furniture, but people were generally smaller. When visitors come they sleep either on the sleeping porch or up in the converted attic sleeping loft. Some of us siblings have even lived with our parents when in between houses and jobs. There has always been enough room somehow.

I am thankful for this open, large roomed, light filled house that has welcomed our family of six so well. We moved in when our eldest was eleven and our youngest was three years old. We've had bands practicing in the garage, ping-pong in the basement, a troupe of girls performing plays in the downstairs family room, twelve or more people around the dinner table, and four of us cooking at once in the kitchen. We've often had violin, piano, and guitar going at the same time in different corners of the house - ack! Baseball and badminton in the back yard and basketball and hockey in the driveway. Christmas trees that looked much smaller in the field and two rooms to store camping gear, skis and a large freezer, as well as a laundry drying rack which is full much of the time. Our house is often messy, but has never felt cramped. The walls are full of artwork and book shelves. I look at all the new row houses (with teeny tiny postage stamp yards) popping up in our town and wonder how we, a family full of energetic, sporty musicians, would have fared living so closely with neighbours as our children grew up.  I'm sure we would have survived, but I am grateful we didn't have to.

I wonder what our future brings as we gradually enter into this new phase of life as so called 'empty nesters'. This house and yard is a lot to look after without four strapping youngsters to help. Will we stay, or will we go? Just as we've always done, we'll do whatever seems right and fitting when the time comes. I have a strong sense of 'home'. I would like my children to have that anchor in their lives, too, but I know that 'home' is where the people you love are, not necessarily the structure they live in.

Still, there's time...there's time.


  1. This strikes a few chords although our situation, without kids, is different. There are some of those same choices and decisions ahead, some are looking painful from where we are right now and those are being postponed in the hope that things will improve somehow. But a postponement is only that and reality rarely changes unexpectedly.

    It's clear though that family is what is important and the rest, well the rest is nice but nothing without family to share and enjoy it.

    Thanks for this. An nice reflective piece which gives some insight into common feelings and priorities outside your immediate situation.



    1. I hope you will find your decisions less difficult than you anticipate. Good things usually happen to good people...:)

      You are right there, family is what is important.

      So glad you enjoyed the post and that you could find some common ground in it.
      Cheers back at you Al!

  2. It will depend really on the running costs won't it. Or at least it will in some ways.
    Once the kids lessen in the house you will find your free cash will increase dramatically. I expect with four of them you could put a down payment on a jet when they go.

  3. The food bill's already gone down quite a bit with one strapping youth out of the house and cooking for himself!
    ...a jet...funny!

    I think,for me, it's more about feeling 'at home' in a big house when the children no longer live there.

    1. The odd thing about space is you'll fill it no matter how big. What I expect you'll do is re-jig when you won't need so much seating. It the kitchen that'll check you if anything. That's fixed. But fixed for far larger than you'll have.

    2. That is true, because when we moved in, it was from a much smaller home. I thought we'd never fill it, but we did, especially as the kids grew taller and taller and acquired various collections of things.

      I'll just have to keep collecting dishes, for which I have a special fondness...to fill all these cupboards when there is just less food in them!

    3. Have you thought of doing a B&B.

    4. I'm not sure we are enamored enough with the hospitality industry to embark on that sort of thing. Not anymore. Although we once considered it, long ago.

  4. From this post (and others), I get such a warm feeling of your home. I suspect, though, even if you did move, that warmth would go with you.

    I'm having similar thoughts these days as you and I have kids around the same ages. In fact, your eldest's situation is a lot like ours - except for the weekend job!

    Happy belated birthday and Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks Abby :) Our son has a weekend job because he doesn't have a full course load, as I think yours probably does.
      Thanks for the wishes as well!

  5. Based on the many conversations I have with my friends who have high school and college aged kids, you are definitely in the preliminary stages of Empty Nest Syndrome; and you're so young! I'll be over 60 when my last one leaves. lol

    Reminiscing, anticipating the future... that's what I've noticed. They all get through it. The happier ones take advantage of new doors that have opened.

    As Abby said, there is such a warmth about your family and home. I don't blame you for wondering how the exit of each child will affect it. My guess is that it (your home) will always be that way. :)

  6. your home is very nice all of you can adjust in bog home.

  7. i think we really want to keep some room when we get there for them to come home...when i was in college i came home in the summers as well...i went to school about an hour away...and you never know...it never happened but there was a time when out of work and the economy tanked we almost came home....god forbid, but...we got a few years though til we get there....


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!