The Departure

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A late night drive down the motorway towards London. All in preparation for an unsociably early visit to Luton Airport tomorrow morning to see Eldest Daughter off on her gap year.

I am now a seasoned parent-of-gap-year teenager. I’ve experienced the drama and emotion of the first-born packing and leaving for an eight month stay in a foreign country with security “issues”. I wondered how I would ever recover a sense of equilibrium and get used to that sense of absence. Is it a ‘leaving home’? Or is it just an extended stay in preparation for the series of extended but shorter absences that mark the years of the university student?

I tend to see it as the latter. As long as the bedroom still has clothes and stuff, it’s not leaving the nest. But it is a quantum change, an epic moment, a rite of passage which shocks and surprises by the emotions it evokes.

Second time around, it’s different. Once the first has been away and tasted independence, most mothers I think adapt readily to successive departures. The family dynamics are now in a state of constant flux anyway; children disappear and reappear at all sorts of odd times and for odd reasons. It’s a new way of being, and I find myself more excited now than sad.

Maybe it’ll be different facing the departure gate early tomorrow morning. But I’m genuinely looking forward to going out to visit in a couple of months, and anticipate with pleasure hearing all the stories of the experience.

In the meantime, the younger sisters are recovering from a hysterically emotional departure scene. It may take a few days yet before they rediscover a happy equilibrium. O happy days.

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