Last month my eldest child left home and if I pause too long to think about it my heart pounds so hard. Too many emotions to process, like a swallow dipping and soaring through the sky.
How many countless times have I heard or repeated “it goes so fast’ ? And yet it does. No matter how slowly you think you lived it. No matter how often you breathed in and enjoyed each moment. No matter how present you felt at the time.
If I stand still now and close my eyes, I see 19 years flash through my memory. A highlight reel on fast forward.
The squidgy baby thighs and the sleepy story times. All those tree climbing, finger painting, den building, tickle monster best bits. And all those goodbyes. Nineteen years of practicing goodbye. His small hand in mine at the nursery door. That first brave wave in the school playground. The awkward hug by the coach door as he set off on his first overnight school trip. Each farewell a little less drawn out, his confidence growing. The excitement of what lay ahead began to trump the feeling of separation.
A lifetime of training in goodbyes. A lifetime of preparing and practising. Raising a child so that one day they will be ready to strike out into the world fully on their own.
I’ve had the privilege of watching him grow and learn. Begin to carve his way in the world of grown ups. I’ve seen him approach life with maturity and dignity. Humour and compassion.
So now he’s off. A year long apprenticeship several hundred miles away. Entirely ready and loving every moment. And of course I am filled with pride and joy. I knew this moment would come and I of course I knew it was the right and proper way of things. And of course I ache. Because if I hold out my hand, stretch it out in the afternoon light and turn it slowly, I can still remember exactly the feeling of his small hand in mine.