Gaps. Again.

And then almost as soon as it begun, it’s over.

Christmas.

Decorations are packed away; fairy lights taken down and hastily wound so that they will be a bugger to unpick next December.

And the children begin to leave.

I dread their going in the same way I dreaded the return to boarding school when I was little; I awake with the same sinking, sickening, base-of-belly feeling that I woke up with back then. Always a Sunday; we always went back to school on a Sunday. And a Sunday it was this time too.

I promised her I would not cry. And I remained stoic as I nagged about tickets and passports and telephone chargers and remember-to-calls, as I bundled her into the  car and strapped her in – she’s 22 for God’s sake, but she was too kind to remind me that day. I had helped her pack the night before and made her egg sandwiches for the road. And I held her close in a hug and breathed deep and held on.

And then I let go. And I waved bravely as the car went through the gates and onto the road away.

And then I cried. Sitting on the edge of the loo, seat down, her cast off pajamas in my hands, my face buried so that I could inhale deeply the last of her scent, Chloe, door closed. Great shuddering sobs.

It is not that I am unhappy, not 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 their own, seprate lives.

It is simply that for so long my children, mothering, has comfortably defined me, a default into which I slip with happy, unconscious ease so that each leaving reminds me it is time to begin to recast a little of myself.

I blow my nose, tip her pajamas into the laundry basket, scold myself for being a baby, wash my face and walk onto the verandah .

Ant has made a fresh pot of coffee, ‘come’, he says, ‘sit beside me’, and he pats the chair next to him as he drags it closer. He pours me a mug, puts his arm around my shoulder.

I sip. I sigh, ragged from sobbing. And I smile.

It keeps going – life; you have to keep up.

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11 Responses to “Gaps. Again.”

  1. joannastevenson Says:

    You put feelings into words so beautifully. Love to you and Ant as you recast x

  2. Catherine Says:

    What a beautiful post, though you also made me cry. It brought all my feelings to the fore about my grand daughter and how I miss her company now she is growing up and we don’t see her very often now.(she is 17) (Not for lack of trying) We almost brought her up throughout the first 15 years of her life. People say she will come back when she is older and appreciate the fun we had over those years but at the moment I miss her so much. (Boys, work and other stuff seem to have taken over) Happy New Year.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      thank you Catherine – she’ll bounce back. Kids turn into boomerangs when they get bigger. trust me on that x And a very happy new year to you too.

  3. Emma Says:

    sorry, this isn’t the right place for this question but I’m trying to work out where you are in Tz. Are you near Mikindani?

  4. Ad dy Says:

    I’ve just waved mine off and it stuck a deep chord with me as I read your beautiful post. (Sadly I have nobody here to pat the chair next to them as they invite me to sit a while). Hope it is not long until they all return to the nest again.

    • reluctantmemsahib Says:

      Thank you Addy, and indeed I’m lucky to have somebody to pat a chair and pour me coffee. Until they’re home the next time …

  5. daisyfae Says:

    Putting my youngest on a plane. He is 27 and a strong soldier now. It was all light and hugs and ‘see you soon’ as he stepped off the curb into the terminal. i had to pull over on the shoulder of the road for a moment when my sobbing became too disruptive to safe driving.

    My eldest was a bit homesick this year. She is married and lives in Turkey. We usually have skype dates every month, but through the holiday she was pinging me just about daily. We would set up our phones in the kitchen as we both puttered around with baking, or washing dishes. It helped, but i miss having her home. Even for a week…

  6. Gary Says:

    Hi great site,i am writing a book on the subject of crocodilians,i saw a picture i believe you have take and would like to include it in my book,i would of course credit you in the book once published,would you give me permission to use your picture.thanks Gary

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