Yesterday we took middle son to university. He's been looking forward to it very much; he worked hard and was rewarded with the grades to get into his first choice, and has spent time during the summer holidays learning to cook and, I think, getting himself mentally prepared.
He wanted to get there as early as possible, so we got up at 5:30, trooped bags and boxes from the sitting-room where everything was listed and laid out, into the car, and were away by 6:45. I'm only grateful the place didn't open at 9 instead of 10, else he'd have had us all up at 4:30.
His room was OK, but in view of the fact that it is smaller than, and 20% dearer than, oldest son's very smart first-year room at his uni, I wasn't that impressed. He gets a shelf in one of two reasonably-sized fridges, but the kitchen was horrible - all stainless steel and a bit old-looking, and he doesn't even get a kitchen cupboard. He gets a small locker in the kitchen, which he has to buy a padlock for, and it looks as if he'll be keeping his crockery on his bookshelf and most of his tins and packets of food under his bed. Given that his rent is more than his entire maintenance loan, I'm really not impressed.
What little we saw of the rest of the campus seemed OK, but respecting his very obvious wish to have us off his new turf as soon possible we didn't take the time to explore the nicer, more park-y places, even though I wanted younger son (just started Year 12) to have a look round. (I will need to assure him he's hardly likely to bump into middle son during an average day even if he does choose to go there too, otherwise I suspect he'll avoid the place like the plague. Not that they don't get on - they do - but independence presumably calls for not going to the same place as older brothers if it can be avoided).
So here I am; I imagine I'll adapt quickly enough, but in the meantime I'm missing him quite badly. Oldest and youngest sons have always preferred to work in their bedrooms, but middle son established himself in the dining room about four years ago, so he's always been a presence just round the corner while I've been here at my screen. He's always been the one that liked to come and talk to me while I was cooking and washing up; to announce and explain to me his new theories and discoveries - he's quite the original and creative thinker, this one - and to come food shopping with me. He's also the one that always leapt up to help with stuff, and the one who started, at my request, to talk to me in Spanish about two years ago, so that I could learn and so that he wouldn't lose it when he gave it up after GCSEs. He's also the one that was always in the garden when the weather was good enough, and often when it wasn't, so that whenever I was hanging out the washing or hacking out a few weeds, or just eating my breakfast or lunch out in the fresh air and sunshine, he was usually there too.
I love all my children; I've always said to each of them that they're all brilliant, and that they all have some wonderful attributes and some things about them that are bloody irritating. (And yes, I have done my best to explain what those are in, I hope, constructive terms). But it just happens that this is the one who was right there in my face a very high proportion of the time, particularly since his exams finished back in June. And I'm really, really missing him right now.