Magnolia blooms appeared early this year. In the chill of winter, spring waved. Sylvie was inspired and put down the shopping list she’d been writing and set to work. It started with the cutlery drawer. Emptied and cleaned, sorted and put back with a sigh of satisfaction. Then the saucepan drawer. Before she knew it contents of cupboards and drawers spilled out across the bench tops and floor. Chaos before order, pondered Sylvie as she surveyed the scene.

Into the kitchen walked her teenage son Zack.

“Have you called the police, looks like a crime scene.” He exclaimed, taking his phone from the pocket of his ripped jeans to fake a call to emergency services.

“Very funny,” smirked Sylvie as she wiped out the inside of the pan drawer, “there is a mystery to be solved but,’ she added. “I can never figure it out. When I sort out the plastic containers, I’m always left with lids that don’t fit anything and boxes without lids. Just doesn’t make sense.” Sylvie shook her head confounded.

“Not guilty,” Zack stated, raising his arms in an oversized shrug, then opened the fridge.

“Is that lunch or breakfast you’re after?” his Mum smiled, knowing her son rarely surfaced early from his bedroom.

“Definitely lunch, I was up early. I’ve been doing some sorting too, and packing.” He stepped back, closed the fridge door, and looked at his Mum watching for her reaction. It was swift.

“Packing, what do you mean packing, I thought you weren’t leaving til next year?”

“Josh has found a share house, deposit paid, and they needed another housemate. It was too good an offer to turn down, within walking distance of Ekka showgrounds. We want to be moved in and set up to go work at Ekka. Easy access to transport, shops, and Uni. I only found out a couple of days ago and made the decision last night. I told Dad this morning as he was on his way out, has he messaged you or anything?”

Sylvie had left her phone charging in the lounge, she raced to unplug it. There was a message, ‘Our boy moving out, empty nest!’ with a popping champagne bottle emoji. Somewhere deep in her soul Sylvie knew this was the way of all Mothers, the eventual empty nest. She’d lived by the motto of giving her children ‘Roots to grow and wings to fly’, to bring them up to be independent and able to make their way in the world. The pain of her success now pierced her otherwise mundane day.

“Well, yes,” Sylvie said as she returned to the kitchen, “he has sent a message, he seems gutted.”

Zack grinned, knowing his Dad’s sense of humour, and his Mum’s sarcasm. He picked up some of the oddments of plastic containers. “Time to let go of them Mum, recycle.” Sylvie looked across to her youngest child, how did he suddenly become old enough to give her advice about letting go, old enough to leave home. Her eyes glazed over, but she was determined not to make this about her feelings, her yearning to stop time. Breathe, get on with the task at hand.

“What about lunch?” she asked, as she stacked the pans, each in its place. 

“I’ll go to the bakery for a pie, do you want anything?” Zack asked.

“No thanks love, I’ll finish this, clear the crime scene,” she smiled as Zack left the house. Silence seeped through the walls as Sylvie stood alone. She finished the sort out and was left with three lid-less containers and two lids which didn’t fit anything. With a sigh tinged with sadness yet infused with determination, she picked up these remnants and walked out to the recycling bin. On the way back into the house Sylvie turned and gazed at the Magnolia tree, in full blossom while winter winds chilled the place. Seasons, she thought, sometimes out of step, yet each with its own beauty. Sylvie picked some blooms off the tree and took them inside. She placed them on the kitchen window ledge in a bowl of water. Now free to complete the shopping list she’d started earlier; Sylvie added a couple of items. Then, with a smile and a flourish of her pen, she added ‘bottle of champagne.’

Helen – Creative Writer and Plastic Container Detective.