Hat’s off to Santiago

The weight that sits on my chest grows progressively heavier. In the days before Hat leaves I worry it might take my breath clean away. When she says, ‘Mum,  you seem distracted’, I am afraid to speak for I know my voice will wobble under all that weight.

The morning before she flies, I flee to the bathroom, put the loo seat down to sit on it, and weep. The weight begins to dissolve wetly.   There is some relief in tears.

All the way to the airport, none of us talk much, we gaze out of the window at sky and traffic and a drying Africa, I – in the back – lie with my head tipped against her case, resting my cheek on her jacket, inhaling her scent.

The long line that straggles out of the airport, untidy, moves slowly but still too quickly. Too soon we’re at the top of it and I must relinquish my beautiful daughter to the bowels of international travel.  I must hug her hard, I must say brave things like, ‘have a wonderful, wonderful time’. I must not say, ‘please don’t go, please, I’ll miss you so’. I have nagged long and hard and tediously. Ticket? Passport? Phone? Charger? My children laugh at my fretting. But they laugh with kind affection, not the irritation I deserve.

I wait outside, gazing beyond plate glass where I cannot go, to watch for her thumbs up from the check in. To know that she has successfully navigated her baggage all the way through to her faraway destination, secured her transit vouchers.

I don’t want to stand politely and force smiles. I want to tear rudely through this queue, vault over security, ignore the shouts of airport officials and I want to snatch my Hat back, I want to wrap my arms around her and coax her home.

But I can’t do that.  This is my life. And that is hers. I need to stand stoically, sensibly aside, acknowledge her thumbs up with one of my own, blow a kiss, plaster a smile to my wet face and give a last wave. And then I must turn and go.

Ant says, kindly, ‘you silly old bag’.

He is right. I am silly. And soft. And I applaud my young daughter’s courage and spirit and adventure.

‘If only it wasn’t so far away’, I say, Santiago, ‘if only it wasn’t for so long’.  A year.

We drive home in silence. Africa shimmies, swims. I have to wipe my sunglasses dry.

Later, after a shower, I pull Hat’s sweatshirt from the laundry basket and slip it on.  She feels closer like that. I walk into her room but have to step back. Its emptiness winds me. Like a slap. I close the door.

I’ll go in tomorrow. Tomorrow. When she’ll have crossed Africa, crossed the Atlantic, crossed almost all of South America.

I’ll go in tomorrow. I’ll be braver tomorrow.

 

Hat's off to Santiago

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4 Responses to “Hat’s off to Santiago”

  1. Ad dy Says:

    I can empathise greatly with you. I felt like that when Kay went to Tanzania and Borneo. She is off soon on big travels again and I know I shall feel again like you. It’s the lot of a mum and I don’t think we’ll ever grow out of it.

  2. Penelope Says:

    Ah, what a challenge it is, when our ducklings fledge! {{hugs}} and sympathies.

  3. Sabine Says:

    This is the hardest thing but be assured that your daughter will come back to you with new and wonderful insights to share, healthy and grown up. We need to let them go but I wish someone could teach us how.

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you all. roots and wings. roots and wings. rootsandwings. a mantra for a mother x

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