Sally Worm

Tomorrow at dawn, I will put Hat on a plane to London.

This will be the first time she has flown alone.

And the first that I have had to say goodbye to her for more than a few brief days.

Nineteen sleeps. That’s what I have told her. Told myself.

She is going for a school reunion: to put real life smiling faces to the names she has grown to know across the ether, to meet the children that match the personalities which have become familiar in her virtual classroom.

She is excited. And happy.

She has packed and repacked and sorted from her outpost-warm wardrobe one that will suit chillier England. She is going to stay with my mother. With cousins. She is going to go to Tesco as often as anybody is prepared to take her.

I, despite the welcome company of her older siblings and her dad and the distractions that outside-outpost living will bring in the coming weeks, will notice her absence acutely. She has become my shadow. And I hers. My conversation over breakfast. My swimming and walking and watching telly companion. Her gentle presence is much bigger than you imagine.

Next week we will be an unfamiliar, too tidy, four. We normally number almost half a cricket team. We will pile into the car for an outing and I will say – before I remember that she is on the other side of the world – ‘Where’s Hat?’ We will sit down for a meal and I may stop myself just before I holler, ‘Come on man Hat, it’ll get cold’. And her siblings will be given rare opportunity to win at cards.

This, this gentle exercise in encouraging her forth is because I know she deserves the opportunity to shed outpost shackles. To have her own small adventure. To meet her peers so that she can really know them and not just their voiceless, faceless names across a void.

My conjecturing is being put to the test. This plan was hatched last October. Things are always easier In Theory. I am determined not to cry though. To dampen her enthusiasm, to dilute her joy.

I am tentatively standing at the coop door and reluctantly, anxiously, ushering the last of my brood out a little, just a little. And I am resisting the almost impossible urge to go after her, to shuffle alongside my smallest chick, ruffling my feathers importantly and bossily clucking instructions.

She will manage. She is composed. She has proudly packed her passport and ticket and the paperwork that denotes her as Unaccompanied Minor into a small bag purchased especially for her expedition. It is red velvet, with sequins and gold tassels. She chose it herself. And it is a perfect.

When my children were young and obliged to be separated from me for any reason, I constructed for them a Sally Worm. Each segment of her – usually flamboyantly coloured body – was a paper cut out, perfectly round for the tumbler I had used as a template. The segments were taped together and numbered for the days. Each evening, I told my children, they were to rip off the segment at the end furthest from her head. As we grew closer to our reunion, so the Sally Worm got shorter and shorter and shorter until, finally, happily, gloriously, the night before I got back, all that remained was a single circle with big eyes and a broad, broad smile.

Hat made me my own Sally Worm today.

Nineteen circles and a huge yellow face.

With an impossibly big grin.

32 Responses to “Sally Worm”

  1. Bush Mummy Says:

    Oh I LOVE the Sally Worm.. I might have to make one for my girls when they go for their first sleepover..

    I imagine you have that sick going back to school feeling? But just imagine the time she will have and the experiences that she can tell you about when she’s back.

    Nineteen sleeps will fly by (look it’s nearly April already right? Didn’t we just have Xmas??) and before you know it she will be back with you where she belongs..

    Be strong RM.

    BM xx

  2. Jo Says:

    That was such a lovely post to read.
    My daughter is only 5 1/2 and I dread the day that she goes off by herself. I miss her even when she’s just having a sleepover.
    I can’t imagine 19 sleeps, be strong.
    You’ll find distractions and before you know it, time will have flown by and Hat will be back.
    As for Tesco, how many times is too many????
    Sally Worm is a wonderful idea, well done.

  3. Expat Mum Says:

    Oh wow. That is brave of you both! I’m very impressed that she is so composed about flying all that way on her own. You have obviously done a great job of making her feel comfortable despite everything that’s going on in your heart!

  4. Grannymar Says:

    We mothers never cut that cord. Being a good parent means teaching our children to stand on their own feet. If we give them their wings then they will return gladly.

    Sally Worm sounds like a delightful idea.

    Now go pamper yourself for a few days! That’s an order!

  5. Potty Mummy Says:

    What a great idea. Though I have to say that I’m in no rush to have the need to make one…

  6. Rob Inukshuk Says:

    I love the Sally Worm. What an inspired idea.
    Aaah, to visit the United Kingdom of Tescos. Hat will have a wonderful time and you are doing the right thing for her and it matters not if there are tears, so long as there are hugs and kisses and words of encouragement.

  7. lulu Says:

    Good grief. What an awfully big adventure for her. She can come and stay with me if she wants Lx

  8. Mr Farty Says:

    Aw, the Sally Worm sounds brilliant. Excuse me, my eyes are leaking.

  9. KatduGers Says:

    Me too!

  10. Iota Says:

    I LOVE that Sally Worm idea.

    She’s a big brave girl, isn’t she? How marvellous that she isn’t daunted by all that travel alone.

  11. More than Just a Mother Says:

    Sally Worm is an excellent idea. So very hard to let go, but so very brave of you to know it’s the right thing to do.

  12. Kit Says:

    Good luck to you both. I’m sure she’ll have a great time but will fly back to the nest happpily and even more confident after her adventure. So hard to let go but it sounds like you’re doing a brilliant job.

  13. Dumdad Says:

    Sally Worm – what a lovely idea. Lovely blogpost too.

  14. rosiero Says:

    The Sally Worm sounds a wonderful idea which I might try, although belatedly as my chick has almost done with leaving home for short bursts. I know just how you feel. my little chick will be leaving home for good soon to go to uni and I just don’t know how I am going to cope, as, like you and Hat, she and I spend a lot of happy time in one another’s company. Hope the days while Hat is away go well for you.

  15. nappy valley girl Says:

    What a wonderful idea. I hope she has a great time and returns to you safely.

  16. nuttycow Says:

    Isn’t Hat brave, flying out on her own? She’ll have a fantastic time however and, although I know it’ll be difficult for you, the time will fly by, I’m sure.

    It must be difficult to see your children growing up around you but luckily for you, you can do so in the knowledge that you’ve bought up such fantastic children who’ll succeed in whatever they decide to do.

    Take the days she’s away as a chance to spend some time on you. Why not plan a surprise for Hat on her return?

  17. Laura Says:

    A lovely post.

    I love the Sally Worm idea – I shall use that with my own children for all sorts of things. We currently use sleeps as a measure but anything over 5 sleeps is a mystery!

  18. Rob Says:

    The red velvet bag certainly sounds alot more becoming that those big-plastic-unaccompanied-minor bibs from the-good-old-days. I took mine off one time and wandered aimlessly around Zurich Airport admiring all the chocolate, until I was urgently summoned on the PA and told I must wear my “badge”. I am sure Hat will have a wonderful adventure…

  19. doglover Says:

    England in the Spring is beautiful and I hope Hat will appreciate it – it must be a complete contrast with the outpost. The daffodils are out here and so are the May (whitehorn/blackhorn) trees. But it’s bitter cold as it always seems to be. I hope Hat has plenty of warm clothes for her thin Africanised blood; if not, that’s a reason for another trip to Tescos!

    And she’ll soon be back with tales to tell …

  20. Bush Mummy Says:

    How is she getting on?

    Or more to the point – how are YOU getting on?

    BM x

  21. Mapesbury Mum Says:

    She’s going to have a great adventure – and so will her gran! Enjoy the holidays…..
    Sally Worms bring back great memories (although if the realitiy was that great we wouldn’t have had to do them!)

  22. Paradise Lost In Translation Says:

    Ah trips to Tescos….. I’ve become a shameless U.K supermarket junkie since living abroad. I used to hate them passionately when in England! I hope the trip/reunion & holiday live up to HAt’s expectations. A lovely adventure for her. I hope you’ll be ok & the days don’t drag too much. You’ll just have to talk to yourself. I do that……..

  23. Corinne Says:

    I simply love this post. I’m feeling a bit down today (for no particular reason, just the blah’s) and I found your words immensely comforting. Thank you for your always thoughtful posts.

  24. grit Says:

    england is lovely right now – spring and daffs and all that! but what a lovely idea is the sally worm, and i shall pinch it if that is right with you. tiger is going away for her first big adventure soon – a whole week away and i dread it! i shall keep two sally worms – one for her and one for me!

  25. Tash Says:

    safari njema to Hat… A milestone, as well as a segment on a sally worm, but all that milestone has to say is success, well done, you’ve done a good job… Hat, spending all that time at home, and without other young company in the Outpost, could have grown up shy and timid, and reluctant to leave the safety of your skirts. You and Mr R (and Hat, herself, it must be said) should all congratulate yourself on the wonderful young girl she is… lots of love xx

  26. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you all. i am typing this far from home and close to the impatient roar of surf and quiet chatter of cicadas. i have borrowed a modem and a laptop. my own communication oddly compromised given brief proximity to civilisasation. i miss my Hat and my writing but the gaps are filled with the school holidaypresence of my big children who laugh loudly and easily and who eat me out of house and home, which is a good feeling for a mum x

  27. Mom de Plume Says:

    Hi RM, May I pinch your sally worm idea? Hat seems to have grown into a thoughtful, interesting and adventurous young lady!!! I have jsut read your article on blogging in Psychologies mag… well done, and I must admit I felt a bit self important ‘knowing’ you! =:)

  28. Working Mum Says:

    Your own Sally Worm! That alone would have made me cry. Sounds like Hat is growing up, which just shows what a fantastic job you are doing.

  29. upsidebackwards Says:

    The Sally Worm is a wonderful idea! We will have use for one in our house shortly. I just discovered your blog today, I suspect I will be a regular visitor now. Thanks!

  30. Sarah Ebner Says:

    Gorgeous post. I hope you are coping. Being a mother is so strange – getting used to all that looking after, and then having to learn to hold back too.

  31. Brit in Bosnia Says:

    I loved this post. So beautifully written and a great idea. I hope she enjoyed herself enormously.

    Would you mind if we used this post for the expatmumsblog best of carnival on Tuesday? Please let us know at Or if you have any other posts that you would like to highlight then let us know.

    “On Tuesday 21st April we’re hosting an expat mums carnival over at

    We hope to collect a good group of posts about the unique experiences and challenges of being an expat mum. Please send over a link to any posts on related topics to

  32. Sally Worm MkII « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] and Crazy wants to know what a Sallyworm is.  I built my first with an old friend when I was younger than my youngest is now – and […]

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