"Well it's about me granddad, see, and one night he has a nightmare. He was so scared, he chewed his pillow to bits. To bits. In the morning, I says, 'How you feel, Granddad?' He says, 'Oh, not bad. A little down in the mouth.'"
The above is, of course, from Mary Poppins, Disney's classic and a household favorite to both watch and quote. But, I actually am a little down in the mouth and it's not funny, not funny at all.
Dharma, Vance, Bitsy and Rosebud have all departed. They went yesterday. And I'm still moping around, looking into their vacated room with wistful longing whenever I pass by (which is every time I go up or down the stairs). It was unbelievably lovely having them here and I miss them so much!
We have this funny, little "tradition" in our family of tearing about the house immediately after someone has left after a long visit, looking for "souvenirs". My sisters and I started it when our favorite aunt and uncle would visit us when we were kids. They lived far away, we loved when they visited and we were always terribly sad when they had to leave. One time, they had barely turned off our street when one of us found an item left behind that belonged to one of them. We were so excited to have something of theirs to hold on to, something to remind us that, yes, they had, in fact, been there and all our wonderful memories were real despite the desolate feeling left in the shadow of their departure. The hunt was then on. We gathered a small pile of things either left by them or last used by them and, somehow, it made us feel better. And a habit was born.
The kids and I still do this, only Man-Cub calls the items, "evidence," instead of, "souvenirs." Yesterday, immediately after Dharma and Vance pulled out of sight, I went looking. I almost took photos, but no one but my family would get them: the high chair in the corner of the dining room that we'd lugged up from the basement, the rubber bands still looped around the doorknobs of the cupboards to keep Rosebud from smashing the dishes within, the last raisin box Bitsy had emptied just before being carried out to the car, the nearly empty bag of dog treats left in the pantry, the pile of bed linens Vance had stripped off their bed.
Later in the day, I decided to pull the band-aid off in one, quick tear and went up to their room to make the changes necessary for Redheaded Snippet to resume residence. I packed up the cribs, folded up the extra blankets, added more to the laundry pile, and packed away the extra pillows. During the process I found a small, red bunny barrette and a toddler-sized, pink, hooded sweater: more souvenirs. I think I was wiping away tears the entire time.
By the time supper was over last night, the last traces of their visit were nearly gone. I'd aired the laundry room where their dogs had stayed, finished most of the laundry on which I'd gotten a little behind, stripped and remade all of the beds, and most of the downstairs had been tidied, swept and wiped down. Our house is back to the way it was. And it may be a wee bit more tidy and calm, more "normal," but it's also a lot more empty, lonely and still. More support for the theory that "normal" is over-rated.
So, I am, in my first full back-to-normal day, going to take some time to recharge, decompress and refocus. I'm going to clean out the fridge, finish some laundry, perhaps clear off the top of the dryer. I may even put the screens in the kitchen windows to take advantage of the cool, fresh, sunshine-laden breezes we've been enjoying lately. I will return my house to normal. But I'm also going to mope a little longer, sigh loudly every time I walk past Redheaded Snippet's room, and well up with a few tears each time I catch myself absentmindedly looking out to the driveway expecting to see a tan minivan there.
But I'm not taking the rubber bands off the cupboard doors.