an aching kind of growing
Saturday, 6 September 2014
We rented a Devon longhouse this summer, along with the Pretty One's family, some too-scarcely-seen cousins and a few friends for Rose to dilute the testosterone.
The ridiculous tropical weather burst the night before we drove down, so we panic-packed board games and all manner of wet-weather gear. We had planned a fortnight of sunshine and outdoor sports, and I envisaged gruesome, twisted teenage plots fermented under the dripping straw and tiny, leaf-blocked windows.
The weather was kind, though. There was an ancient pitted tennis court set in a pewter-trunked apple orchard. Those on ball-duty ate ruby-colored juicy apples and swatted wasps with the old rackets. We knocked up for hours on end, trying to remember alternative tennis games we'd invented as children. The husbands told of glory days jumping triumphantly over nets. We thought about the distance to the nearest A&E and stuck to manly hand-shakes of congratulation.
Three of the children were awaiting major exam results and grew greyer and more dish-washing as the results day grew close. They played table-tennis and swam and as soon as we took the dogs out, watched all sorts of unsuitable DVDs found in a cupboard. We busted them spectacularly returning unexpectedly for a forgotten phone. There were tidy rooms and laundry done all week.
The exam results came out at dawn on the second-to-last day. Proud parents, we bought local fizz and fish and feasted outside on a long, humid evening full of overexcited relief, texts to friends and the surreal talk of college and universities; sixth form choices and who would pass the first driving test.
There was a secret garden next door filled with bursting yellow wasp-flecked plums. I went in with a bag to scrump some for a spontaneous addition to pudding and listened to the buzz and laughter from the terrace. It was a moment filled, like my mouth, with the bittersweetness of endings and beginnings and the certain inevitability of change.