How real goodbyes aren’t just sad, they’re messy.
The day is not too dissimilar to other days, it’s just this time the imminent change that faces our little family looms large: it occupies our home physically in the form of a packed suitcase and mentally in logistical pre-occupations — is the passport close at hand, is the taxi booked, is all this for real?
Emotionally it occupies us too. For me, this entails an internalised lodger moving in with an almost imperceptible flutter. As it grows more at home, it gains in confidence: a most inconsiderate resident hurtling and whirling and flitting around, banging against my ribs, up towards my throat and down towards my belly.
As the day progresses, the lodger inches towards my mind, seemingly intent on making it harder and harder for me to think straight.
For the most, the boys mooch around, largely happy in each moment as children often are. And J remains calm too, although the telltale signs of understandable anxiety creep out in the form of spending too much time on seemingly inconsequential tasks.
As the time for departure approaches, raising stress levels both push us together via kind words and physical closeness and pull us apart with frayed tempers and frustrations.
The taxi arrives. It’s raining. There is nowhere to park in front of the house. We trundle cases and children across the road.
We have said ‘goodbyes’ earlier, yet I still hoped that this moment would allow time for a little tenderness; a little time for just us. But there are roads blocked, and bags in the wrong place, and fumbles for things that are needed close at hand.
The tenderness is there, but it’s clumsy and the sight of the taxi pulling away up the road is as unsatisfying as it is upsetting.
As I cross back over the road, just me and three forlorn boys, I berate myself for harsh words spoken at odd times during the day, for nags that now feel of little consequence.
We head back inside and dry off. Two of us crying. One of us a little scared. The youngest plain shocked at the realisation that this change is real.
We sit on the sofa and I don’t know what to do.
I remember the drill and put on the kettle, add a sugar to the tea and find the biscuits and the duvets.
We cuddle up and we watch a daft film.
I think about how much better goodbyes are in the movies — more profound, more co-ordinated, cleaner somehow. In real life they leave behind niggling crumbs, trapped within the blankets that we absent-mindedly pull around us for comfort.