The Longest Shortest Day

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.

10 Responses to “The Longest Shortest Day”

  1. Joanna Says:

    I physically felt the aching, remembering that feeling, as I read your post. Giving our children wings so they can fly is responsible, thoughtful parenting but oh, so painful. Mine are both adults now and I still feel exactly as you describe at every lengthy farewell.

    It helps to remember what it was like to be the child in that situation. Leaving for boarding school and the familiar ache inside – and how quickly that dissipated once surrounded by school friends and chatter. Parents are left surrounded by physical reminders and the child shaped hole at home and it takes far longer to adjust, to settle again. But you will 🙂

    You have such a gift for expressing yourself on ‘paper’. Thank you for sharing it here.

  2. janelle Says:

    oh voi….flippin’ heck….got me going…thanks a bunch for your poignancy…big hug, darlin’ xxx j

  3. Addy Says:

    Oh that made me cry too. Hope she got there safely and you managed to get into her room again without breaking down. Deep breath, bite your lip and in you go…….. ((((Hugs from an all-alone mum))))

  4. Carol Says:

    Poor you – hope Hattie is happy back at school – and that you cope without her… And write more blogs as I think you were missed! Lots of love

  5. nuttycow (@nuttycow) Says:

    I can’t believe how much Hattie’s grown – she’s 15 now? Wow. I can’t say anything from the mother’s point of view but from the child’s view, we know you worry and, although it’s a little annoying, we love it really!

    Hope all’s well. xx

  6. janerowena Says:

    I know those feelings oh so very well. x

  7. Lyn Says:

    Ahh … tenderhearted and bittersweet. I am all too familiar with the sentiments you shared and I am sending you a big Canadian HUG! Feel it? xxoo

  8. Elaine - I used to be indecisive Says:

    It must be hard. I know how anxious I used to get just waiting to hear that a short train/bus journey had been successfully negotiated!

  9. Katherine Stevens Says:

    This made me feel really sad. I too, used to say goodbye to a child regularly so they could fly 15 hours to return to their life. I hated it and could never sleep until I knew he was safe. Now you just wait until the next visit!

  10. Melie Says:

    Oh lawdy this made me well up. Don’t worry…I will give her a ring, and we will see you so so sooooon and once again make fun of how tiny you are in comparison to us lanky lot xxx

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