I thought he’d never get home. My son. I thought – as did he – that he might be winter-bound forever. Waiting, watching anxiously, as British Airways continued to roll flights to an ominous Cancelled. But he did. He arrived four days late. And in time for a Christmas we feared he’d miss.
‘I’m rank Ma’ he warned as I moved to envelop him: too many days Heathrow hostage as he drummed fingers and sought to find a place to charge his phone and laptop and there hadn’t been the luxury of a shower. The help line collapsed he related later (when he’d showered and got out of days old clothes) and the website. They gave us cardboard mattresses to sleep on, like a UN refugee camp, and they threw bottles of water at us from moving trollies and he demonstrated by pretending to hurl one my way. But the angst had morphed as adventure: he’d learned alot in those few days. Mainly how to beat the melee and get home in a hurry: ‘I’ll go anywhere in East Africa’, he had urged the British Airways staff who kept him on hold for an hour and a half, his phone stuck determinedly to his ear having finally got through on Day 3. Dar es Salaam bound he ended up in Entebbe, bribed his way past a sticky immigration official and made his way to us on the east coast. It’s hard not to feel a little bit proud. Even of the fledgling five pound bribery. He’s learned to Make a Plan, I thought, such a necessary skill: improvisation.
So we were five then. Five again. And I don’t know where the days went? They blurred as one, as things do when they whip past too fast: they smudge and blur, collide, collude so that you can’t pick one end up from the other and before you know it the episode has slipped out of your fingers entirely and it’s time to go back to school and college and work and an outpost.
But you can distil the memories as metaphorical fragrance to dab upon wrists and inhale deeply when nostalgia and solitude conspire to overwhelm. You can do that and remember to laugh and so sustain yourself.
For there will be more. More of the happy, fullfat, satiating same.
Of course there will.