The last day is always the longest.
And the shortest.
It drags its heels and kicks them and then looks at the time and gasps: that time? Already? Where did it go? The last day?
Hat flew back to school last night. A long last day. Wishing the sick feeling in my tummy would pass, that the lump in my throat would go, that I could taste the lunch we went out to. And the shortest: wishing 10:30 would never come and being astonished when it did. Time to clamber off the sofa where we lay to watch telly, her tall 15 year old frame curled into mine so that I can smell her hair. Limbs a tangle, the cat wedged between us. Time to heave a suit case into the car, to go through the sameold checklist: passport? Ticket? Phone? Charger? Money?
Yes Mum. Yes Mum. Yes Mum. Mum, please stop worrying; I’ve done this before and I know what I’m doing. It gets easier.
Not for me.
For me the longest/shortest last day turns into the longest night.
I wake at 3am and wonder where she is in that big black nighttime sky, is she asleep? Is she warm enough? Is she ok? Did immigration treat her kindly after I held her in a hug and called her back through the metal detector for a second so that the man who stood next to me smiled and I wondered, ‘does he have to say goodbye to 15 year old daughters?’.
I wake at 5 and wonder, can she see a pearly dawn too? Has she slept? Is she alright?
At ten I must worry: can she manage Schipol? Did she navigate her transfer? Does she have enough money for a Coke? A sandwich? Has she found her gate? Is she safe?
At two I must fret until I hear her voice, there, from the other side of the world. Faint and faraway.
‘Hi Mum, I’m here’.
‘You ok? Was your flight good? Did your bag arrive? And your guitar?’
And then I must anxiously finger tap until I know she is back at school, in a warm dorm, with friends, familiar faces, a hot bath, supper.
Twenty four hours after she leaves here I hope she is there.
And I will walk into her bedroom at home where yesterday’s clothes are still scattered, teddy bears lie glassy-eyed on the floor, vibrant cushions lackluster suddenly, an unmade bed, strung with mosquito net and fairy lights. Colour abounds in her newhomeroom but it is achingly, achingly quiet.
And the lump in my throat dissolves and wets my cheeks, and I bite my lip and I close the door.
I will tidy up tomorrow; I will be braver then.