When I left home the last time, it turned out to be that I was also leaving my life, my belongings, my family and friends and the country I had known for most of my life.
I never appreciated the impact that my jolly jaunting and eventual immigration must have had on my parents until I had children of my own.
Off I went on my travels with my trusty straw basket and rather small suitcase, £200 and a yearning to “see stuff”. Back then, no internet, no mobile phones, just the trusty airmail letter which would take anything up to 10 days to arrive. I sent one or two and then headed off to the Isle of Wight for work.
Not being entirely sure where it was, I arrived at Southampton, remembering ironically that 18 years previously, mum had packed her three children onto a boat heading to South Africa for a new life and now here I was, standing on the same dock, waiting for another, somewhat smaller boat.
They came to visit me there, mum and dad. I estimate that we had not seen each other by then for possibly 6 months or so. They found it amusing that I was their waitress in the evenings and we were able to spend a few days together before they headed back. We started an unspoken tradition then: never say goodbye. We always said, “See you soon.”
Over the years, those thin blue letters were the only link I had to my family, attempting to fill in the months since we saw each other last, not like now where I can easily chat to my own children as though they are in the same room.
Dad had a heart complaint and I often wondered how it would be when I received THAT phonecall. By then, I had my own family and my parents had bought a flat nearby so that every year, they would come over for a few months and re-connect with me and the children. Every time I waved them off, we always said, “See you soon.”
Dad and I said that to each other the last time I saw him. Mum would still come over every year after that and stay for a few months in the flat, spending time with us and delighting in watching her grandchildren grow. I would drop her off for the last time and we would say, “See you soon.”
I watched my son queuing to go through departures for his year away in Texas as part of his studies. Head and shoulders above the rest, my eyes picked him out easily until he disappeared from view. He now lives a few hours away so I don’t see him very often.
My daughter has been and gone many times. America, Australia, the Far East. She is currently working her away around lesser-known parts of Europe and I don’t know when I will see her again. I read once, that the Native American Indians always used waving as a way of saying not goodbye but come back soon. So I am here, waiting and waving at my children, to “see them soon”.