How I learned that the confinement of our decisions can feel oddly liberating
The day passes in a blur. The boys are at school. My parents mill around bringing drinks, lending support, helping pack as all of our anxiety levels slowly rise.
The day ticks by and time gathers pace until it reaches a point that I feel I am hurtling too quickly down a hill, unable to grab the last things that need sorting, checking and putting in the suitcases.
At 3.00pm, I rush out to collect the boys from school to be greeted at the door by a downpour. Brief, final goodbyes to friends get washed away by the rain as the boys and I run home.
A quick change of clothes, fraught farewells, clasps and cuddles then straight into the taxi to the airport.
For the first hour of the journey, we are quiet, shellshocked by what we have just left behind.
Passports checked for the umpteenth time, we relax into the choices that J and I have made and enjoy the trip and the conversation with the taxi driver. He is kind and knowledgeable and understanding of the foibles and fun that accompanies three boys jammed tightly together in the back of a car.
Checking in is seamless. The boys, as they always do, rise to the potentially stressful occasion, following instructions while taking care of each other and also of me. The temptation to run and to drop to their knees and to skid across the over-polished floor of the terminal proves too much to resist. I let it slide.
We find a restaurant with a booth. For a couple of hours, we are slow to order and slower to eat: starter, mains and afters, making the most of the little oasis that corrals us as we watch the planes taxi below.
The children occupied with activity sheets and crayons, I order a small glass of Sauvignon Blanc. It doesn’t dissolve the knot in my chest, but it does seem to help it slide down so it rests a little easier supported as it now is by the bottom of my stomach.
Eventually, we become restless, and we make our move.
I am now carrying most of the bags and soon after the books we buy with gift money from Mr H. I’m momentarily concerned that we’ve left the sanctuary of the booth too soon as my precious cargo tries to navigate too many people and smells and noises and lights. Quickly I revise my opinion — the walk to the departure area is long and we pause there only briefly before we are called to board.
Once on the plane, I seat the children who are immediately delighted by the in-flight entertainment system.
I plug the kids in while stowing bags, keeping just a few key items and a whole load of cuddly toys close. I’m later glad of the ridiculous amount of stuffed fluffy animals we seem to have packed — wedged between seat arms and small heads they make for excellent cushions. They also smell of home.
Soon we feel the rumble of the engines and eventually, we feel ourselves soar skywards.
The knot that had made its way to my stomach makes a final descent to the soles of my feet: it quietly leaves me in peace and all that remains is a lightness inside of me. I am calm and I am oddly freed by my confinement in this long, thin, streak of metal.
Sleep flits in and out but relaxation comes easily. Behind me is a lifetime of obligations I have floundered with, actions I have regretted, texts I have not responded to, ambitions I have not fulfilled. Ahead lies my husband, the reunion of our unit of five and the large, blank, canvas that fleetingly accompanies all change.
I am excited as I picture the footprints that we will make in the virgin sand that lies somewhere below far, far away from vague regrets and the nagging niggles of the past.