A suitcase was packed that night as well, a small case with functional items. What was not in it and yet bore heavily on me was a bitter sweet sense of a new beginning. I was heading to the hospital to deliver my first child. The baby ready to break free, I scared of the labour, unsure of the responsibility and missing my freedom already.
It has been a wonderful 18 years since that night. Multiple suitcases are being packed at the moment. They all lie open in her room. Shoes, clothes, books and curry pastes vying for space giving in only to the dogs who want to be packed as well. The mess always bothered me, all these years I have screamed myself hoarse about the clutter in her room but now I know the mess shall be missed. It is time for another new beginning. She is ready to break free again. I am scared to let her go, unsure of how she will cope in a faraway land and missing her already.
Year 12 for us has been like the last page of a favourite book, speeding along to the end of a quest with an apprehensive emptiness waiting at the finish line. Each day had an adventure of its own, deadlines, essays, scores, mocks, SATs, applications and not to forget the endless parties, farewells and night outs. We laughed, fought and sulked through it all in equal measure. Doors were slammed and horns were locked, however the laughs were easy and often. Each day she inched closer to her independence. Each day I held on to the past. Both of us changing, both of us fluid, she in control, I just trying to breathe.
Standing among the accumulation of the life of a little girl she no longer is, I look at myself in her mirror. Am I too old to enjoy the wonder of the unknown? Too selfish maybe or just the same old me trying to hold on to things the way they were. She enters the room with a grin, “It is strange you know how my friends were all teary eyed today.” Flinging her bag on her bed she flops on the floor petting the dog. “Of course I will miss them, but it is time to make new friends. Is it not? I think it’s silly to moan. ” I quickly check the mirror again for an errant tear, god forbid. Sometimes thoughts escape involuntarily and form words that are audible. I can’t believe myself saying it even as I do, “You have been home for 18 years, won’t you miss us?” These are the moments when you want your hand to physically close your mouth shut. Thankfully the words are not suspended in the air for long and my girl shows no hint of having caught the immense baggage the lines carried. “There’s Whatsapp, Skype.. what’s to miss. You will practically see me pooping if you want.” She gets busy on her phone and the dog and I leave her alone.
At dinner she has her University reading list up for discussion. Over rice and fish we debate various sources of procuring the 12 books. Amazon wins hands down. It has got all the books and will ship them in time. Talk about being ready, everyone seems to be ganging up on poor old me. Not like a few books less would have made a difference to travel dates, but one can hope.
I think of all the times we lay under the covers reading pop-up books, Enid Blytons and a host of other mystery stories. In the later years we continued this ritual by reading each other’s fiction and untold facts. Her legs propped over my body, her curls always in the way of her reading and my heart in wonder of the precious time. I take courage from the fact that I can see her poop if I want and tread on thin ice, “So once you are on your own, will you add me to your social media?”
“Are you serious ma? No way!” she laughs and dinner is done.
She is ready, happy, and rearing to step forward. Her joy is infectious and a balm to my spirit. I ready myself to my own journey with a twice cut umbilical cord.