A dinner bell once hung outside our home. It was to be rung when folks needed to be called from all directions around the farm. It was my noisy way to say, *Hey, Family! I need you closer!*
But changes are happening at the Kirksey abode. This spring when the hot tub got hauled out of our gazebo by a mass of muscles and sold to someone who likes that sort of thing, the bell needed to be removed for its own safety in the hustle, and it hasn’t found its way back.
The other day, I was looking at the leaves that are too-soon-changing, and glancing through the trees for apples, I saw my empty bell posts, and I had a sad realization.
Our bell is no longer needed.
There are no longer extra folks running around this place. Christian and I are now as close to empty-nesters as it gets.
Our son bought a gorgeous farm 7.2 miles away after living on adjoining property for the last 3.5 years. And of course, he took his dog as well.
Our *baby* girl began her schooling and will be staying home only occasionally, but working and staying closer to school most of the time.
Our other daughter created a homestead with her family about 15 miles away, and they bring the grandbabies to play at what is called *Mimi’s house* as often as possible.
So now, it’s just Christian and me, 2 ridiculous cats, 2 loud geese, 3 adorable ducks, 9 free-loading hens, and 1 obnoxious rooster.
When we moved here 3.5 years ago, we bought a big, ol’ house on a LOT of acres because we are expecting our family to grow — not by our efforts (thank You, Jesus), but in the natural course of the next generation. We wanted to create a space in which our family could always convene and rest and celebrate and share for all of time. We did just that! But suddenly, and for the first time, the number of folks present in this home has dwindled to two, and we feel like we are rattling around in some sort of quiet haze.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits. I mean, don’t tell my precious kids, but this place is infinitely cleaner! And I am cooking wayyyy less. And groceries for two are a lot more like eating the rainbow since we both like that healthy stuff and the grocery budget goes farther. Christian and I are the best of friends and we have literally been waiting for this since we were 18 years old. So, we sit in our little matching chairs with our cups of coffee and act like we mean it. Or we hop on an ATV together and take some of the apples that fell off our trees and go put them out at our respective deer stands as archery season is only a couple of weeks away.
But sometimes, we get a little teary wondering how the heck we got to this part already. It seems like a few minutes ago, our babies had Barney shoes and Little Mermaid bikes with training wheels and squeaky little voices with lisps and snuggled on our laps and peppered us with sweet kisses.
The best days include having the whole gang over for a huge dinner, toys strewn everywhere and voices clamoring in the air, and everyone so grateful for the goodness and unity we’ve created as a family.
And THAT is what it’s all about. Not holding on to the past like some well-hoarded bin of memories. Not stunting anyone’s steps forward by pulling them all ever-close. Our very plan all along was to watch these not-so-baby-birds fly free — admiring the stunning beauty of the flight we were so very blessed to help facilitate — and making the absolute most of the touchbacks they, and we, most certainly need.
And a lesson I’ve learned from much observation, is that it’s our absolute and profound responsibility as parents to be the kind of folks that they WANT to be around. They do not owe it to us. The words family or parent don’t entitle us to a darn thing. Just like we taught them — you earn what you have.
The earning is initially much harder than the handout, but the reward in having done all it takes to hold something precious and of value that you invested in, is priceless.
When my kids come around because they like to be near me, well, I’m not sure I could have achieved more in this life.
My heart is so grateful.
And now I just have some more quiet in which to consider how thankful I am.
Who am I kidding? The next guests arrive before I know it amidst hunting season, six birthdays, and travel.
And I have so much rattling-around-in-space to clean. Perhaps in my underwear! 😀