What I will miss and what I won’t

When I move to the Outpost, my big kids will have to go to boarding school. I will miss dreadfully the seamlessness of their presence, the predictability of their return every night and the fact it is only ever a few hours away. I will miss their banter, their laughter, their reminder that I am still needed – even if it seems only at times to fill tummies, snack boxes and washing machine. I will miss seeing their sleeping forms at night when I check on them (which I still do even though they are 15 and 13 respectively). And I will miss marvelling at how sleep wipes from their faces the angst of adolescence so that they slumber semi-smiling.

I will not miss the laundry they generate, the fights they have for absolutely no reason other than to apparently hear the sound of their own voices and the daily slog to school.

I will miss my friends. My confidantes do not number many (an anomaly considering I spill my guts in cyberspace!), but they are precious. I have leaned hard on them in recent months; they’ve listened to me cry when I had to and made me laugh when I needed to. They have had the children to stay so that during this forced separation, Anthony and I can abbreviate the distance between us.

I will not miss the gossip, the one-upmanship and the small-town politics that come with almost-suburban African living. I will not miss that – despite living in one of the most poverty stricken regions of the world – it still apparently matters what you look like, how fat/thin you are, how well decorated your home is, how designer clad your children are and how artistically you have scattered cushions. No. I will miss none of that. I anticipate with relish the freedom that will attend bush living so that I can wear what I want, when I want and nobody will notice that my eyebrows need tweezing or that it is too long since I did anything about disguising the grey in my hair.

I will miss seeing my mountains, Kilimanjaro and Meru. I will miss watching how their faces change over the year and across the seasons so that in the wet and the winter they are shrouded with grey blankets which they are only warm enough to toss aside come mid afternoon when they coyly – and briefly – emerge. I will miss that, in the summer, Meru’s peak pierces an azure blue sky with such sharpness you wonder the colour does not leak out. And I will miss the plum pudding iced sugar topping of Kili. In the 16 years I have lived within view of Kilimanjaro I have never stopped marvelling at its beautiful incongruity, its sudden, majestic rise from arid plain to snow capped peak: no wonder the earliest explorers rubbed their eyes in disbelief, no wonder the Africans once believed it was capped with silver which they tried to gather but which disappointingly ran through their fingers as they descended the mountain.

I will not miss the urban sprawl that is eating the region up, spilling, ugly, from town centres and raping once virgin Africa so that blankets of forest and carpets of savannah are discarded in place of hotly glinting corrugated iron sheets and fences adorned with blue plastic bags. I will not miss daily evidence that trees are being lopped down with abandon, I will not miss noticing that Kilimanjaro’s snows recede a little more each year because it wasn’t designed to be tramped up by over 20,000 people every year. I will not miss knowing it’s one of the continents biggest rubbish dumps.

I will miss the farm. I will miss my walks. I will miss noticing the birds: comically fat and ungainly guinea fowl, elegant beaked yellow bill storks, bejeweled kingfishers, vociferous, argumentative weavers.

But I will not miss the attendant ache as I witness its demise. I will not miss the tight chested anxiety that has plagued me almost every day for the past six years because our security was so tenuous, our futures so uncertain.

I will miss my home, the house that we built from a barn with rafters a hundred years old and hard as nails. I will miss its generous proportions, its wide verandah so that when I walked up to it, it was like falling into the arms of a friend. I will miss every familiar contour of its shape, the sounds it makes at night, like now, small sighs or slams which you can pinpoint to precisely the right door.

But I will not miss waking every day and wondering how much longer we can live here.

I will miss the familiarity of a place I have lived in and loved.

But I relish the prospect of a new adventure. Perhaps that’s what’s keeps us young – new adventures – not Botox?


3 Responses to “What I will miss and what I won’t”

  1. Minx Says:

    Absolutely Mem, botox is for people without lives.
    Starting out on a new path will mean a new set of memories and how wonderful is that?

  2. problemchildbride Says:

    What are the blue plastic bags on the fences for?

    This was a lovely wistful post. Your life is different from mine but when I read this we have many of the same concerns – home, family, friends, the ability to take long walks in a beautiful land, worry about what we do to that land that it can’t recover from. Missing the children sounds like it’ll be the most difficult thing. Will the go to the same boarding school? Will it be close enough for weekend visits? You’ll find a way to make it work though. Setting up the new homestead for their return will make it easier, I hope.

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you both.

    Problemchild … blue plastic bags are curse of Africa, anything that is purchased is wrapped in one and then discarded wilfully (being no use to help start a fire as kindling). They get tossed by the wind against fences and are called Africa Blooms. They are very ugly. Yes, the big kids will go the same boarding school, sister school to the lovely day school they go to now so much is – happily – already familiar. No. Not close enough for weekend visits, a 400 mile drive on shocking roads (15 hours) or a round trip by air of anywhere between 4 and 8 hours. I will visit them and spend days at a time imposing self on girlfriends so that I can get two weekends for the price of one as it was!

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