It's back to school for us this week - a ritual which has been performed annually in this household for twenty years, since my eldest started at nursery as a tiny tot. But this year, it is different. With just one of my three children still at school, this is the last autumn we will be looking out uniform, buying new stationery and hunting for lost kit of a morning before rushing for the school bus. The baby has started sixth form. How did that happen?
If you have young children, it is almost impossible to imagine such an ingrained part of your life coming to an end but this year, for us, everything will be poignant - the last Christmas dance, the last parents' night, the last school report. I still have all the projects from primary one -all wobbly handwriting and wonky drawings - in a cupboard, all the school photographs, all the reports...
These things are about to become part of our family history, to be dug out at future family gatherings, cooed over and laughed over. Do you remember when...? Threads of a tapestry binding siblings together in shared experience.
We are good at marking special occasions - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases. But all too often it is the occasions for which there is no ritual or tradition which are the most affecting. How do you mark an empty nest or a fledgling about to spread their wings?
For my dchildren, a tiny reminder of home and childhood is a comforting thing. My eldest daughter is forging a career in Manchester - experiencing the joy of a smart suit, a morning Starbucks, a grown up pay cheque. But it is comforting for both of us to know that she is still wearing the little sterling silver teddy pendant she got all these years ago. It may be tucked away beneath the collar of a business shirt but we both know it is there - a link with home and with the past.
Often it is the little things, a picture in a locket or a shell from a much-loved holiday spot slipped into a blazer pocket that lets them know that you've remembered and that while they stand on the brink of a scary and exciting new world, some things endure - home and happiness and family and security and love and laughter.
How do you mark these precious moments in your family? We'd love to know.