School holidays finished today and, after lunch, the last of our grandchildren left with their parents. We stood at the gate and waved until their car had disappeared in the dust of the track and then walked back inside to an empty kitchen and a strange quietness throughout the house. Just the two of us again.
Our kids have all grown up and moved on, working hard to build their futures and families. We see them a lot — weekends together, regular babysitting gigs — but their lives are now being made a long way from the family farm.
Four kids in five years, a tumble of three brothers and a sister; fun times still remembered when we all get together. Tough times as well, with droughts, low prices for grain and stock, high interest rates. But happy memories of a life that focused on family rather than material possessions, relationships rather than revenue.
Time passes and kids grow up. But school holidays now herald a new chapter in our lives, as grandkids — nearly a dozen of them — beg their parents for a farm holiday “with no grownups”, (apparently grandparents don’t count).
We drive down to pick them up from happy parents who can barely conceal their joy at the prospect of a week or two without kids. The biscuit tins are full and I make sure we have all their favourites on the menu — farm soup, roast lamb with lots of gravy, pancakes and Vegemite toast with way too much butter.
Our grandkids gradually relax into the rhythm of farm life as they retrace the steps that their parents took a generation ago. Feeding the sheep, the chooks, the dogs. Bonfires lit, snags cooked, damper on a stick. The sandpit, the slide, the jungle gym. Chasing mice and catching rabbits.
A tooth lost, so writing to the farm fairies — with letters written back to them in the same tiny writing we used 30 years ago.
Firewood collected, marshmallows toasted and family stories told over and over again — the same stories that entranced their parents all those years ago.
They sleep in the loft where their parents slept when they were the same age, thrilled and proud. Cousins playing together and connecting in ways that will strengthen our family ties long after their grandfather and I are no longer here.
I sometimes catch my husband’s eye over the tops of their heads and wonder where all those years have gone. How could it be that these precious children are our grandkids?
Their laughter and energy, their fun and enthusiasm brings the heartbeat and soul back to the old farmhouse and everyone knows that it’s special.
We all know our time together is precious.
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