How I thoroughly enjoyed the calm of reunion before the storm of building a new life.
Despite the weight of the hand luggage and the crick in my neck, the feeling of freedom that set in on the 7ish hour flight from London to Dubai remains.
The boys, tired but quietly focussed on the reunion ahead, follow me, trance-like, from the plane until I seat them by the luggage carousel. They sit in front of what looks like its mouth and watch, hypnotised, as it spits out items from the hold and parades them round and round on its large, black, tongue. Once reunited with regurgitated suitcases the excitement begins to build.
Even though their spirits raise to levels that I know risk bordering on the tricky-to-manage, and even though tempers fray at the smallest of brotherly misdemeanours, we continue to be propelled forwards almost as if we are still walking with a tramulator under our feet. It seems we have no choice but to keep moving forward, even if we decided we wanted to stop.
I’m aware that towards the back of my mind tiredness, uncertainty, and nervousness are, like the children, competing with each other to catch my attention. But still I feel light, easily rising above the worries I am entitled to have: there is nothing I can do about those worries now, and that utter helplessness is, like the confinement of the plane journey, oddly liberating.
We enter the arrivals hall and I am pleased to experience a small flip of the stomach as I spy the familiar form of their father — I thought I was too long in the tooth for such feelings. The boys, on the other hand, ride their emotions like a wave that crashes them into their Daddy’s arms. I see little hands wipe away little tears before their fluffy-haired framed faces turn towards me willing all five of us to stand closely together.
After J and I quietly squeeze in our own reunion, we pack our cases into the car and J drives. The next hour or so passes dreamlike as we watch, mesmerised by the procession of desert edged roads and camels and tall buildings and fast cars whizzing past. Eventually, the procession slows and we find ourselves, one sick stop later, on the doorstep of what I suppose must now be home.
J opens the door and reveals a scene that to date I’ve only encountered via video calls. “It’s like I’ve fallen into the iPad.”
The house is sparsely furnished. Just some mattresses and sheets, a desk doubling as a dining table, three lollipop-shaped lilos and the largest inflatable flamingo imaginable. “All the essentials”, says J. I smile.
We head to the pool and, for the first time in a long time, we play. Later, happily tired, we head back indoors and J prepares lunch from a fridge that is as stacked as the house is sparse and we eat and take turns to snooze on the mattresses in the living room, and we embrace and we feel tied together in our new predicament and it is these ties that bind us that, paradoxically, let our hearts soar.
Momentarily, the fact that my existence is now so tightly dependent on J invades my contentment but the lurching feeling quickly passes. Right now, in this moment, this sense that I can do very little, that I can only be cared for in the comforting embrace of my family? Right now, I feel free.