Listening to the quiet

The grandchildren left Tuesday and we commented to each other how quiet was. After a nine day visit with my daughter and her husband, the Princess of Boston and her little brother, Mr. Smiles, the house, back to normal, seemed suddenly empty.

It took a bustling morning to gather the clothes, the suitcases, the totes, toys, swim gear, coolers, books, beach towels, water guns and a few snack bags. The van was packed high and tight. The goodbye kisses were long and the hugs smelled like summer all SPF-50 and fresh-washed hair. And then they were gone.

I stopped to think about the silence that descended immediately after they backed out of the driveway. The previous nine mornings had begun with early matinees of “Tales of Despereaux,” “Ratatouille” or the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” movie already blaring from the DVD player when I stumble out at 7 AM. The flicks weren’t loud enough to wake us but for two people who cherish silence with the morning paper and coffee it was an adjustment. Our den is the morning reading room and just happens to hold the big screen TV. Naturally both of them can completely operate the complicated switching system. We usually arrived mid-movie and amid a self-serve cereal and yoghurt breakfast. They’re pretty self-sufficient and they were personally quiet even though the film fest wasn’t.

Other than an occasional scrap over “she rode the swing first” or “he soaked with me with his water gun before I could fill mine,” they aren’t a particularly noisy bunch anymore. Just the usual sibling stuff.

The ages they are now – six and nine – seem like the golden years of childhood. Nowadays, they’re past the whining stage of pre-school and, most important, when Malcolm arrives at the stage known as terminal hunger, he no longer bursts into screams of starvation from the high chair.

Last Saturday he said, “Gogo, I’m actually quite hungry,” about two hours after polishing off two large waffles, six slices of bacon, blueberry yoghurt, a glass of juice and a small macaroon. It was so much more civilized than the wracking sobs of toddlerhood. This long, lean, little boy is a bottomless pit. I can’t imagine feeding him as a teenager if he’s eating three lamb chops as a kindergartner.

Yes, now in the golden years, they no longer need to be pushed or carried they are in fact, eminently portable, pulling their own suitcases and filling their own backpacks. And they’re actually self-sufficient, somewhat refined little specimens. Their diets are normal . . . they eat real food. They bathe themselves, dress themselves, and can usually be counted on to respond when spoken to. They’re past the diapers, bottles, cribs, potty chairs, high chairs, stuffed animals menageries, strollers all the myriad detritus of early childhood. And, we have a few years left before the eye-rolling and dismissiveness of the joy-filled teen years. Yup, these are fun years. Neither of them knows everything – yet. And, so far, they actually seem to like us. They both allowed me to hold their hands coming out of the park after the Jamestown Jammers night game. No big deal for them as they’d normally hold their Moms hand, but thrilling for me who doesn’t get her hand around a soft, smaller paw very often.

I have to admit it’s a pretty fun time just talking to them like real people. And delightfully, they say, please, thank you and excuse me more than most of the “real people” I know.

But they’re gone and it’s back to the quiet. The constant slap of the porch door is silent. The dishwasher isn’t being loaded and unloaded daily sometimes twice. The washing machine and dryer aren’t running at odd hours. The upstairs shower is mute. There are no footsteps running across the overhead bedrooms or up and down the stairs.

Last year they discovered the circular floor plan of the house and their chase games resumed midweek . . . now reduced to only echoes. “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” DVD is finally back in its case and just in time. We were both terrified that we were memorizing the dialogue.

I guess one of the reasons their departure is so difficult, in addition to adjusting to the quiet, is the amount of time until we see them again. There are times I’m truly envious of my friends whose grandchildren are local.

I’ve had time to think since Tuesday and I’m not convinced that listening to the quiet is all it’s cracked up to be. Between now and Thanksgiving it won’t be this silence that the memories of July 2014 are made of – It will be the louder happy moments – the shrieks of a water gun battle, and winner’s victory at miniature golf, scrambling for candy at the parade, splashing at the pool, and the request for more warm sticky buns. I can pass on the quiet for a few more years.

Bring on the noise. Just come back soon.