In her novel Family Affair, Penelope Lively's leading lady, Alison, the mother of six children, has perfected the persona of doting parent. Her greatest ambition has been to create a home that's domestic perfection--a shrine to togetherness. But of course, the children start to age away from the home fires. Here's Lively writing about that moment when Alison recognizes that she is close to being an empty nester:
"Alison is oppressed by age. Not her own. The children, who are no longer children, except for Clare, and perhaps Roger, who is on the cusp. The others are disappearing over the horizon, and she is aghast. This should not be happening. Not yet. Oh, of course they grow up but somehow one had always felt that that was way, way off. And now, suddenly, this summer, it no longer is. It is not just their size, their new concerns--it is the sense that they are moving into foreign territory, places of which she knows nothing. Once, they were infinitely familiar, predictable; now they are alarmingly volatile, one does not know what they are thinking, or, half the time, what they are doing."