‘Hey mum! Guess what I woke up to this morning?’ the GUS, Toby gabbled, somewhat excitedly down the phone.
‘Do tell!’ I replied, not really quite prepared for the response.
‘Only a flying fireman, who, for the first few moments I thought might be a wizard because he seemed to be levitating outside my window!’ were quite possibly the last combination of words that I thought he might utter. Especially when you consider that his new student digs are on the fifth floor of the halls of residence.
(Rest assured, dear reader, he hasn’t completely lost it – the fire station is directly behind the student apartments’ building and the fireman concerned was NOT actually levitating.
‘Cos, y’know, they can’t really do that. It would be wizardry if they could. Cool and all, but not actually real.
I think he was on some sort of platform or something. I don’t know, ‘cos I wasn’t there, but I’m using my noodle to try and keep up with the conversation. The things I do for you guys!)
It’s been a busy month or so, with many ups and downs, getting the GUS ready to fledge.
A year or so ago we watched the magnificent BBC wildlife programme, ‘Penguins – spy in the huddle‘ which truly is worth your time to watch. Toby and I adored it – well who wouldn’t? It’s all about fabulous Antarctic Emperor Penguins, Peruvian Humbold Penguins and Falkland Rock Hopper Penguins, birds who know a thing or two about parenting. Penguins are perhaps the ultimate ‘cute’ wildlife, with their formal-looking attire and distinctive waddle, especially the new-born chicks who are covered with extra-fluffy down and have eyes like saucers.
In one episode, which was about the growing-up stage of life, there’s a memorable moment where one particularly prodigious penguin chick, who is almost as large as his hapless mother, continually demands that she feed him. RIGHT NOW.
He pecks at her increasingly emaciated beak mercilessly, ever more clamorous in his beseeching; she obliges well beyond what is seemingly appropriate or even moral until a final morsel is despatched and a line is crossed.
The girl is simply not giving up another morsel of food to this gargantuan greenhorn – she’s had it.
She turns on her heels (ok … give me a little licence here people, I’m setting the scene OK?) well flippers/feet or whatever and waddles off into the Great Beyond – a featureless sheet of icy tundra that she has called ‘Home’ for the past few months. Not a sniff, nor a sigh nor even a wistful peek over her shoulder at the offspring she’s left behind, to fend for himself. She just heads on out of there, entirely focussed on where she’s going.
We both welled up with tears when we watched it – it was a sad moment and seemed portentous to both of us, perhaps for different reasons. For me, it was the willingness to simply abandon her chick, whom she and her partner Emperor had created, birthed and raised over the past few months. But then, she’s probably done this before and will likely do the same again next year, so perhaps her ambivalence is understandable – a girl has to get her goodies when she can in the real world it seems.Toby, on the other hand, was probably empathising with youngster, imagining how it must feel to watch your loving mother simply walk away from you – maybe never to be seen again.
It’s possible that he was (in his own mind at least) trying to encourage the chick to look on the bright side – surely this means that it’s PAHTAY TIME! It’s also more than likely that his addiction to ‘Happy Feet’ when it first came out may well have had greater influence on his thinking than either you or I could imagine.
He dried his eye as David Tennant (the narrator on the programme) deftly distracted our attention by switching to the Peruvian Humbolds, hopping and skipping towards the perilous seas, falling around like calamitous Charlie Chaplin’s yet perkily popping back, right-side up, defying the ocean’s gormandizing at every turn. It’s a brilliant programme which I would highly recommend to all and sundry. Go watch it – even if you’ve seen it already, you won’t be disappointed by watching again!
So, the idea of fledging has been raking up these mixed emotions in all of us for quite some time now.
A little while back I took a photo which won first place in a competition.
I called the photo ‘Empty Nest’ and described the way that a simple abandoned broken egg shell in a local cemetery seemed to be a visual representation of this feeling of loss when, finally, the last of our offspring leaves home to begin their own adult lives.
I’ve been feeling odd for a couple of months really. It’s hard to describe – the sense of total devastation and loss that after thirty-five years of having our young around, this last-first-day-ever would bring, paired with the other extreme – elation, that after thirty-five years we can finally do whatever takes our fancy, whenever we feel like doing so without having to consider the needs of our children has pushed me on a roller coaster of emotion like none I’ve ever experienced before. And I hate roller coasters – anyone who knows me will tell you that.
It’s a good job I’ve been so very busy.
Planning a new business.
Writing a student cookery book (which is almost finished, but not quite!)
Making sure that the GUS has everything he needs to start his new life, when we have barely two farthings to rub together. Cooking meals and freezing them in advance of his departure, so that he wouldn’t starve in the first week. No, not much likelihood of that – he’s a strapping lad, built like all great rugby players. But in my mind’s eye he’s still a teeny little scrap, with wobbly legs and an ever open, saucer-like blue eyes that beseech me to love him, to care for him and (above all else of course) to feed him.
It’s never easy, this parenting lark, is it?
I was most touched by his gift to me before he left. It’s the very first time he’s bought me flowers. I’ve always disliked chrysanthemums ’til now. Now I think I love them.
So, whilst I watch everyone on social media posting their pictures of their little ones, many in their first-day-at-school-ever poses (including my adorable grand-daughter, Scarlett) and smile at their expressions, their eagerness and their wonderful innocent glows, for the last time, I’m posting my youngest child’s departure from home, his embarkation on the ocean liner of life, my last-first-day-ever photos.
Thanks for reading again, my friends! I’ll try not to be so long between posts again 🙂