Mind the Gap

Today I put my girls on a flight north.

I hugged them in the shade cast by a Cessna’s wing, I told them to be good. I checked they both had phones/ ID/ a bottle of water. I reminded them to Mind the Gap.

And then I drove home to a house which resonates with silence: did you know the quiet could scream?

I did not know what the Outpost sounded like without the perpetual, omnipresent necessary needfulness of children. A long time ago, when I first became a mother, there was brief resentment at my stolen self, at abandoned career and a social life in exchange for bucketfuls of nappies and broken nights.

For a while I minded that my identity had morphed from ‘marketing’ to mother, ‘just a mum’, I said – a bit bashfully – when asked, ‘what do you do?’

Circumstance and choice meant I never returned to work in an office. And slowly I slid contentedly into the pillow of parenting, as constructed in my own rather less conventional, absolutely non-competitive and consequently comfortable way: perhaps I’m a lazier mother for it. Occasionally I tried to do better: I rearranged scatter cushions in regimental lines on the back of the sofa when I thought the place could do with a Tidy Up. But in reality it was easier – and more reassuring – to note them tossed to the floor by lengthening limbs as my trio of offspring sprawled in front of the television.

And so with time, despite initial reservations, kicking of heels and admitting to my role with muted embarrassment, as if I should be doing more, I adopted the mantle of stayathomemother and wore it happily, more confidently, if a little sloppily, so that occasionally it slid untidily over one eye and obscured my vision so I took a wrong turn from time to time.

My children steeped my subconscious, tripped through my dreams, dictated, unwittingly, the direction of my day: from school runs to teeth brushing, from lunch boxes to homework, from class outings to Christmas holidays. Even when your children aren’t there, a friend once observed, they’re in your head, as you muse whether they took their PE kit to school, why they seemed subdued at breakfast, how they bloody hell they managed to get nits again.

And whilst withdrawing to the Outpost meant compromising the proximity I had to my children, and by extension stretching tenuously the links that reassured me, endorsed my role and purpose and direction, I still had Hat.

I have never sat in this house without her quiet and undemanding – but paradoxically just because she was here, noisy, needing-me – presence. She isn’t asking if she can make muffins. Her room is silent, I can’t hear Owl City emanating from behind a closed door.  If I don’t make dinner it won’t matter as much.

In the days before my son left I wrote lists of all the things he needed to do when and where and how (old habits die hard: relinquishing control when you’ve held small hands across busy, busy streets is easier said than done). My eldest daughter witnessed my fussing and laughed, ‘Do you know what Mum did the first time I went to Gran’s by train on my own?’ My son didn’t so she told him, ‘she sent me directions of which trains to get from where and to what station and she put in bold letters, WHEN YOU GET OFF REMEMBER TO MIND THE GAP BETWEEN THE TRAIN AND THE PLATFORM’. My kids laughed. I did too, ‘Did I really?’ I ask, a bit horrified.

And for the last week it has sustained itself, that joke, every time I asked one of my daughters as they readied themselves for their departure, ‘have you got your  phones/ ID/ a bottle of water?’ they’d merrily chorus ‘yes Ma! And don’t foget to mind the gap …’

I waved them off on that plane, full of tourists sporting safari camouflage, my girls juxtaposed flamboyantly in bright blues and black boots, jangling bangles. And I plastered on a big, big smile in acknowledgement of the happy adventures they’re off on.

And then I came home and heard the silence and filled a washing machine with clothes still perfumed with the heady scent of children.

And I remembered that it is me who must Mind the Gap.


25 Responses to “Mind the Gap”

  1. Mwa Says:

    I don’t really know what to say – just I read it and feel for you. x

  2. janelle Says:

    oh anthea…this makes me cry….sending HUGE ENORMOUS EMBRACES to you………love you lots eh? xxxxxxx j

  3. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Mwa. x

    me too Janellabella, me too: makes me cry too. x

  4. nuttycow Says:

    Oh RM – what a strange position you find yourself in. Keep plugging on, they’ll be home again in no time.


  5. Mud Says:

    Don’t all start crying!You’ll have folks bawling in several continents as they feel the waves of Outpost emptiness streching over oceans.

  6. R. Sherman Says:

    I hate to repeat myself, but reading this post reminds me, I’ve only got three weeks before the eldest is off to university.


    Hang in there, dear.


  7. Lyn Says:

    My heart is full for you too … nothing as deafening as the sound of silence where noisy chatter used to be. ((hugs Mama))

  8. Kit Says:

    Tears in my eyes too! Time is flying by all too quickly here too.

  9. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    Ohh, this is such a poignant post. I am sad for you although hope you have lots of new plans for the next phase of life. x

  10. Danni Says:

    I love your posts, which often make me laungh and/or cry.

    My boyfriend and i are considering relocating from london to our own possible outback… It would be with HIS job, and as much I really want this adventure (pushing for it) and will be trying to get my own job, I am still nervous – and read your blog with mix of emotions!

    Any thoughts? Would you do it again?!

  11. doglover Says:

    Excuse my ignorance, but after reading your blog for quite a while I’m still not clear about your husband’s movements. Does he go to work and come back every day?

    And when was the (very nice) photo taken and are all your children in it?

    Sorry to ask these questions, but you should have plenty of quiet-time to answer them now!

  12. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you all. I am writing today. and listening to Owl City. Loudly.

    Danni – i think a whole post on that might be the thing but in short, yes, i’d do it again.

    doglover, dear leveller that you are always (!): yes i have a glorious husband who comes home most days when not travelling and so, as a friend observed, i am lucky. and that lovely picture was taken a decade ago. They are all much bigger than that. and i have much, much more wrinkles!

  13. Marianne Says:

    Lovely photo, lovely family. Yes, it’s hard, always so hard, to let them go. Good luck.

  14. Hadriana Says:

    Hi RM,

    Hmm. Know exactly what you mean. Music, films, treats all help. How about a bit of online retail therapy or a walk in the sun. Phone calls and skype with old friends work too. Hugs, Hadriana xx

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you Marianne;

    thank you Hadriana —- yes, retail therapy on line … precisely where i am as we speak … x

  16. Mama B Says:

    Don’t know what to say. I just feel your pain, and the scary and seismic shift as you have to work out where the meaning and direction and stabalising come from now.

  17. Danni Says:

    I’d love to read that post some time… :o)

  18. Addy Says:

    Tears in my eyes too. Just try to keep busy, if you can! It certainly helps me.

  19. Grannymar Says:

    Give them their wings and they will fly home when ready!

    …. I almost forgot Mind the GAP!

  20. nmaha Says:

    There are times when I can’t wait for my baby to growup a bit and dread going through the first year again when I have my second child. This post makes me want to go home, hug my munchkin and just spend time inhaling her baby smell.

  21. 3limes Says:

    That is the first blog post I have ever read that made me cry. I know that will be me one day and I don’t know how I will bear it. Be brave.

  22. Gillie Says:

    What a brilliant blog you write. I discovered it when looking for photos of Tabora where my daughter is visiting friends at the moment to celebrate her 30th year. Welcome to the start of the “hotel parent” years…..

  23. ExpatNode.com | Blog | Mind the Gap Says:

    […] https://reluctantmemsahib.wordpress.com/ […]

  24. Gaps. Again. | Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] that she is so that I must fear her leaving, it is not that I have failed to learn how to stop the gaps that my departing children create, bigger as they grow up and carve out thier own, seprate […]

  25. This Incongruous Life | Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] Hat sent me this picture yesterday and I am flung toward memories. […]

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