It's the eve of the school holidays.
Tomorrow Amelia is heading 8 hours north with my parents for two weeks.
Two whole weeks.
When Mum first suggested it, I was totally stoked. The thought that this little restless 6 year old, so used to constant school-style stimulation, was about to land in our laps for a fortnight of boredom and quibbling, had been weighing on my mind. As an alternative, two weeks of running in paddocks, fishing in dams, wading in mud, visiting caves, hot air ballooning (oh yes) and evenings snuggled by a fire is the stuff childhood holiday dreams are made of. I couldn't be more pleased for her. Although I am sure there will be wobbly moments when she misses home, and phones calls will be made, I know that being away from us in a safe place will give her such a sense of independence and pride, and she's going to have so much flat-out fun, that I feel really good about the decision.
But then I feel bad.
Now that she leaves tomorrow, there's a very big part of me that doesn't want to let her go. Obviously I'll be brave and set her free (etc. etc.) and anyway, it's way too late to change minds and she's so excited and her lists have been written (an extensive packing list and a schedule for holiday activities broken right down to each hour). I share her excitement and we are packing with clothes-flinging enthusiasm, but I also want to hold on to her and step back to before the decision was made and remake it again. She'll be such a long drive away.
Our two weeks without her will be long. I know from experience that the first three days of the usual school holidays are nigh on nightmarish as exhausted kids wind down and get used to the new, slower schedule. But after that we fall into gentle rhythms and quiet joys with no need to rush anywhere. No 9am deadline to be in line at the classroom door, no need to get out of our pajamas until lunchtime. Time expands allowing for imaginary friends and cubby building in the garden, 'chapter books' are written (hers, not mine), friends come in from next door, sisterly affection blossoms. We'll miss all that.
I already know that I will go into her room while she's away and listen to the stillness and look at the neat, unslept in bed and feel completely strange and empty. I am already looking at her and missing her. There are moments when she seems so small and waif-like which, oddly, she was nothing of the sort just a week ago. Now she seems thinner and paler and her eyes bigger and more pool-like and those eyelashes! There are other moments when she is funnier than I ever remember her being, and more interesting and full of startling, grown-up confidence. I look at her soft profile and go quite gooshy - there is no other word for it. I am falling madly head-over-heels-again. Funny that.
Only 16 days until she's home again. Counting down.
Other words and pictures for "A Long Drive" can be found here. Thanks Pip for hosting again. xx