With one month to go until we set off on our one year ‘family gap year’, I can’t blame people for bouncing up to me every morning and asking me “if I’m excited”. Please excuse the rictus, schoolgate parents…I promise you I’m not really avoiding your eyes.
To be clear, the answer’s yes. I am excited. I am, and I am, and I am .Why wouldn’t I be? What we’re planning is a whole year with family, seeing wonderful places, finding out new things and luxuriating in that commodity we in the Western world all seem to have too little of- time. What a massive privilege. What a massive step.
But forgive me if I’m not too tigger-like at the moment. Because when it comes to travel planning, the storm comes before the calm. The storm is pretty intense right now, and my to-do list looks something like this;
- 9am Book third set of jabs (don’t warn them about Clover’s nasty tendency to hide behind a resuscitation kit in the corner of the surgery as soon as the needle comes out)
- 9:15am Sacrifice first-born in order to pay for third set of jabs (just joking, Daisy)
- 10am Visit Indian visa services – probably with the wrong set of paperwork AGAIN (admin has never been my strong point)
- 12 noon Sort out consent to let form for mortgage company
- 12:30pm Plan two children’s birthday parties and a leaving do
- 1pm Somehow fit in full day’s work before picking up children at quarter past three
I’m not even scheming in a time for collapsing in a tearful puddle due to being utterly overwhelmed, but I’m beginning to think I need to. After nearly eight years in our lovely home and nearly 14 years in the SE23 postcode, our family is slowly uprooting itself in almost every possible way. Believe me, it’s harder than you think.
The belongings were the first to go: some to friends, some to the charity shop, and far too many to the school fair, where the children tried to buy them back. Then there was the house (let already, though we don’t have to leave it yet), the school place (apparently we will be ‘electively home educating’), and next it will be the cat, the chickens and last of all, our friends and family, and the entire UK, as we wave bye bye from the back of a taxi.
The children are getting good at goodbye, but I am not sure I am. I’m not good with finality, and I’ve got terribly comfy here. Every gathering I’m going to miss, every birthday I won’t be here to celebrate feels raw at the moment – I guess because I’m swapping them for a dream obscured by visa applying, house letting, injection enduring and a to-do list that rivals Spenser’s Faerie Queene in both its length and my inability to get through it.
And piled on top of that is guilt (what mother doesn’t have it?). Should we be taking the girls away from their friends and their education? Will they hate me later? Will it be safe? Will they rebel against their parents and resolve never again to leave the country on our return? So many questions, so few answers, and (thank you Indian Embassy) so many forms to fill in too.
I’ve spent this evening preparing the documents for our Indian visas, and I’m arlready fed up with post-colonial paperwork. Consent forms for the girls, signed by both of us. Their birth certificates. A promise that I won’t do any ‘media-related work’ while I’m in India. References – both in the UK and in India itself. Photos in a funny format. If I could just provide the name of my late neighbour’s dog when I was growing up, that would probably help my application.
I can’t work out if it’s a bright spot or not that the visa services appointment means that I’ll be missing Sports Day. I’ve never been much good at the Parents’ Tug of War. Besides, I’ve got one of my own at the moment, and between the dreams I’m struggling to remember and the fears of what I’ll lose while I’m away, I think the fears might be winning tonight. But, as my mother always says, ‘it will look better in the morning’. So do ask me again, ask me if I’m excited. Perhaps my inner tigger will reappear after a decent night’s sleep.