France, teenage son, travel
Comments 3

Our last swallow has flown South for summer

We arrived 2 weeks ago in the Dordogne (rural France at its best), down by train from Paris through late summer fields and villages. Old stone walls glowed gold at sunset. The air was warm, thick and welcoming, like a fresh baked cinnamon bun straight out of the oven.

The ‘Barn’ has stood for more than 300 years, and been in the family since 1981, thanks to the pioneering and determined spirit of Aunt ‘M’ (she of the infamous parking fine in previous post HERE). The solid stone building was full of energy and chatter: twin girls here with their Dad, an Uncle from England, cousins, partners, ‘M’ the matriarch, a visiting octogenarian, old friends and locals alike popping in. Badminton games and barbeques. Loads of washing taken in and out, beds made up, beds stripped down. Wine bottles brought home, and emptied with loud laughter. Old stoneware bowls filled with baked potatoes, garlic, cheese and cream, matching the smoked salmon and rosemary baked chicken. Various neighbours invited for afternoon snacks, as we piled chips, olives and cheese onto platters on the red-checked tablecloth outside. Not to mention the mound of zucchini feta fritters with crème fraiche dipping sauce, and the walnuts gathered from trees at the edge of the garden.

AperitifsBarn

A full time of sharing: talks, stories, depth of personalities, and family history.

“Tell us about the time you all drove to Spain, and the brakes failed…”

“Remember when you spent an hour getting ready to go out, and even wanted to use an iron…”

“Have I ever been lost? I lost a whole regiment once- fifty tanks…”

“We were in a tiny tavern and it was love at first sight…”

Nothing can replace Time spent together. The energy it takes to gather, prepare, serve and share food. The care it takes to tidy up afterwards, helping to wash and wipe, still talking. The joking about who’s turn it is to make coffee, or fetch fresh bread from the village. The calling out for dirty laundry, the helping to hang heavy linen sheets. The soothing of little spats, the glee in making everyone laugh. The quiet sadness of talking about those we all love no longer present, yet here in spirit.

Irreplaceable family time. So precious. So rare for me.

And now done. The last of the Australians put on the train to Paris this afternoon, flying home tomorrow. Son ‘15’ and I drove home quietly, listening to loud music, but mostly lost in thoughts.

I didn’t like coming back inside. Too big, too empty, too lonely a place now it seems. We wandered around lost for a moment, not sure of where to settle. ‘15’ made a fire, even though it was still light outside, and we both ate comfort food: he cooked porridge, and I smeared Brie on this morning’s bread.

Silence around us. A large space, needing many people to fill the gaps. Needing energy and chatter: needing twin girls here with their Dad, an Uncle from England, cousins, partners, ‘M’ the matriarch, a visiting octogenarian, old friends and locals alike popping in. Needing that energy.

But all we have is the fire, and the echo of huddling around it all together. We press close, dragging both chairs nearer. The edges of the quiet darkness resolve around us, and I can feel a peace descending, with the arrival of a new experience at the Barn: just me and my boy.

I first came here when I was 15, and that’s how old he is now. I brought him here when he was 6, and have a wonderful photo of him grinning happily in the living room then. Now he’s taller than me, with much hairier legs, and a smart funny wise way about him that swells my heart. It’s been time for Family at the Barn, and now it’s time for Us.

Nothing can replace Time spent together. The energy it takes to gather, prepare, serve and share food. The care it takes to tidy up afterwards, helping to wash and wipe, still talking.

Irreplaceable family time. So precious.

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