The house is full again. Full of noise, shoes (so many shoes), empty salami packets, geography books, history books, psychology books. There are cushions on the floor, jenga bricks on the floor, clothes on the floor, offspring on the floor. The fridge empties itself apparently overnight. I can't quite get the quantities for spaghetti for five right. I've recieved 'hostage' photos on my phone, seen eggs disappear as if by magic (a cake, a 4-egg omelette for one, a game of egg cricket - the latter now banned), and dyed the ends of someone's hair purple. I hadn't realised how quiet and civilised life had become with one teenager at home, Simon can't believe the shoe situation, and Phoebe isn't happy about the competition for the car (she passed her driving test recently).
When children leave home for university you know you have to accept it, get used to a different dynamic at home, and get on with it. It's the way life goes, and you just hope the first 18/19 years have prepared them well enough. They go off, and you can either brood on the emptiness or you can move on. We did the latter and it's amazing how quickly you can get used to the lack of mess, the reduced quantities of food, the slightly reduced number of shoes. One day you have three competitive teenagers at home filling the house with what three competitive teenagers do (the egg cricket is new - it used to be satsuma cricket), and the next you have just one. You revel in the peace and quiet, the cushions that stay on the settee, and think how well you have adapted to being 'the shore where they casually come again'.*
Then the students come back and you wonder how you could have been been so sanguine, so accepting of the big hole that appeared when they left. You realise that you might have filled it with other things, but that as soon as they return, there's still plenty of room for them. And their shoes.
[*Frances Cornford wrote the very fine and wise Ode on the Whole Duty of Parents]