There are 10 people living in our house these days. In the upstairs it is just the 2 of us. The house is long enough and big enough, we can lose each other when we are at opposite ends of the house. My son, his wife and their 6 kids all live downstairs in a finished off walk out basement apartment. While we all like to think we are living in separate dwellings, there are only 13 steps with doors closed at each end that separate our households. We all do what we can to respect each other’s space and privacy as separate households. And for the most part it has worked well with whoever has lived downstairs over the last 10-12 years.
We also have kind of have separated the outdoor space somewhat so each family can have their space for activities and outdoor things like swings and grills and stuff like that. They use the backyard out to the cornfield and we use all the front yard down to the dirt road. The side of the yard is everyone’s land. It has the garden and pump and some more big open space with a fire pit nearby for when family and friends get together for a bonfire. It’s where our chicken coop and their duck pen with a small pond set. Oftentimes we do meet in the side yard while doing stuff outside.
While we all try and respect each other’s space, there still are 10 people living under one roof and it can be quite noticeable for all of us at times. We are not the quietest people upstairs. We are walking across hardwood floors, flushing toilets, running the dishwasher or washing machine and dryer at all hours of the day and night, and yelling from room to room when someone doesn’t have their hearing aids on. I am sure our noise can outdo the downstairs noise by quite a bit.
But there are 6 kids ages 5-16 and 2 people parenting these kids downstairs. So just by being outnumbered 4 to 1 the noise level is there. But it is the kind of noise that is welcomed here at our house. It is the sound of kids out in the backyard running and chasing each other while they play soccer. It is the low quiet conversation while they are plotting and planning an adventure in the woods. It even is the squeaking back and forth rhythm from the swingset when someone is on it pumping their legs as fast and hard as they can to “reach the sky”. It’s the sound of a mom teaching a 5 year old how to read while sitting in the sun beneath the upstairs kitchen window. It is the excited, happy yell throughout the house from everyone that “Dad’s Home”. It brings me back to all those years of raising our own kids and the constant chatter and noise. And I never tire from it.
But, back to those 13 steps inside the house that separate our households. Several times a day I will hear the door downstairs open, the running up the steps and the little knock on our door at the top of the steps. There will be 1 or 2 or sometimes more of the grandkids stopping by to borrow something or return something that was borrowed. A lot of times though it will be just to say, “Hi Grandma, what are you doing?”. And I always will stop whatever I am doing and visit with whoever wandered upstairs. I treasure those moments to get to know each of my grandkids as an individual. Lots of times, I will pull up a chair at the kitchen table, or a stool by the counter and figure out a snack or lunch or a glass of juice so we can sit and visit. With the age range from 5 to 16 living here, I am always amazed at the different levels of conversations we can have going.
When our daughter and son-in-law and their 8 kids were living here a few years ago, it was the same thing. The best memory was every evening about 6:30 the 9 year old grandson would stop up just to say hi for a few minutes. We teased him and said he was doing his welfare check on his elderly grandparents. From then on he would tell his parents that he was going upstairs to do his “farewell check” on us. Out of the mouths of babes.
With 15 grandkids in all, it is hard to have separate time with each of them. But we always try to take them aside one at a time and see what is happening in each of their lives. I am always so amazed at each one of them and how they are growing up into great people. It makes me so proud of them and their parents for doing a great job raising them.
Last week the downstairs family decided to take a 2 week trip and I am currently home alone throughout the days, at least monday thru friday. The house is incredibly quiet, there’s no outside voices, no squeaky swing, no one doing their school work under the kitchen window. There isn’t the evening yell that “Dad’s home”. It is just too quiet around here, being home alone. I can even hear each clock ticking in the house as I sit here. I have survived one week of an empty house, with one week to go before they get home and the chatter resumes.
Fortunately, the evenings still involve the shouting back and forth across the house to the man who took his hearing aids out. After an intensely silent day at home, I kind of have welcomed stomping my foot loudly until the floor vibrates and then shouting at him across the house. I guess I will just let him keep his hearing aids out. At least until I am no longer home alone.