The half term holiday is over. This morning, James woke at the insistence of his alarm clock, shaved the holiday stubble from his chin, pulled the canoe off the top of his car, and made his way back to school.
The house shook and settled itself beneath its old mantel of hush, and I returned to my well-worn spot on the living room floor feeling the quiet of the house pressing against my ears and the long hours of the day ahead pressing against my heart.
It's a familiar feeling for me. Because each time the school holidays come around I ride a familiar wave of emotions, and each time they end I find myself crashing back ashore in this empty void of quiet.
It starts with the firm conviction that this time, nothing's going to change. I stare firmly at the week ahead and swear that that this time life will continue at its own quiet pace and the calm waters that we wade through will remain blissfully unruffled.
But then Daddy rollicks into our lives and the waters chop and swell as I rail against the loss of the quiet little life that I'd worked so hard to carve out for myself and try not to resent the man who walks so sure-footedly over the sanctity of my routine.
For a few frustrating days we dance around one another, testily testing the waters and snapping until we adapt.
Then, suddenly, from somewhere, the holiday spirit descends and we settle down together to ride the crest of the wave.
We lounge together in the long lazy mornings, we indulge ourselves with luscious lunchtime treats, we play on the floor until our knees hurt from crawling and our cheeks hurt form smiling, we visit the farm and watch John assault the horses, we work on the house and take pride in our progress, we stay up late and watch movies after midnight, we laugh, we frolic, and we all fall a little deeper in love.
But holidays are finite things, and when they are over the teachers of the world are shut back in their sweaty classrooms and the wave crashes down on the shore.
And so I sit back on the living room floor amidst the ghosts of giggles and the memories of mayhem, feeling flat and forlorn in the quiet of a half-empty house, knowing that the crest of the wave was worth the flatness of the crash and looking forward to Easter when we can do it all over again.