Friday July 20th

Feeling restless, going up to school in an hour, allowed to meet him today because it’s the last time. Will position myself away from the masses and take photos for him and then, en mass, we’re going to the park where I’ll watch from a distance and note how he’s changed and enjoy the excitement in his end of school face. I’ll feel his whipped up, giddyness at leaving and the bubbling buzzing chaotic energy of their rites of passage.

This morning I approached assembly in a trance. He’d left ahead of me so for the first time in ages I made the walk and heard my footsteps, a quick and gentle fall on familiar gravel and saw how the leaves had changed since I’d last been that way. I heard us through the years, the mornings of another world, the hot sticky hand that I hold in my mind and the slow slipping into who we are now.
And it looks like every other walk but it’s never been more different. I think I’m early and plan to sneak in but everyone else had the same thought and there’s just one seat left at the front. I’m sandwiched between two people I can cope with, that’s the best I can say. And I feel an unexpected sadness for the laughter and connections that I had with these few people and how they usually keep a safe distance now. But an ingrained pattern remains, even now and I can’t help joke with a face from the past and it’s a bubbling, potent mix of fear, love, disbelief, pain and pride.
And the seat is perfectly placed, puts me in a straight line with our son and the keyboard behind him just under a display shouting ‘Courage‘ made of tinfoil. And I stare at the letters hearing the message and tap away as the chatter hums and builds. And it hurts when I laugh with this person and remember how you’d worked with her by chance just at the end of the old world and we smile at the current situation like we used to years ago, while I feel oddly calm and brittle at the same time.
And the other face ventures a question about how our son is feeling and she says Jack will miss his friends, while I note what that word means to us.

In this anticipating hub bub I’m invisibly present feeling every single second in the deepest way.
A tiny sibling finds his feet and wobbles towards me, drops his bottle and I watch it spin-dribble on the floor, swirling me back to toddlerdom and feeling the thread that connects.

So I sit there aware of all our previous hall moments. The Christmas productions, his kangaroo with my sneezy fur sack hanging from his tummy and he started to look pale, coming down with something and was ill on the last day so you took the presents in for us. And the following year, the set of antlers, sparkly and copper, that I constructed with him for the whole group and blustered them up to school in an enormous bag on the windiest, wettest day possible.
And we always sat at the front and you videod it on the big clunky thing that Al sold you just before it became obsolete. And in Key Stage 2, too grown up for animals, he became a shepherd and then a king. In year 5 he wore the bright gospel outfit that I spliced together the night before from cheap t-shirts and you couldn’t come because you had a meeting and I sat there alone trying to work the brute of a camera while all around me tapped and clicked and made tiny whizzy beepings on their small black things, while I cranked and creaked the silver machine in an aim to capture the footage.
And we somehow arrived at last year and I crawled through both performances of Year 6 speaking parts and him in huge glasses playing the Boffin, which you would have loved. I got through the show flanked by huge pillars of friends sandwiching me with support until the second showing where I sat by an empty chair and couples doubled around me like they do now and it looked like the space belonged to me and no-one asked to sit there. So I breathed through the final Christmas show, encased in an obvious space, like I sit here now while some of the dads have been let out with time off for this last key event.

And all our school moments pass before me like a parade of who we were and the tension builds while my pretence is stretched at the seams. I sit here thinking of all we’ve done in this new world and how I’ve eased us limping to this point.

So I breathe steadily through it all in a quiet, tortured pride. I edge through the moments, manage my way round the songs, surprise myself at my composure until he plays the keyboard. And I see him practicing with you and listen to his careful notes, watching the progression of his commitment through the pain. And I’m held and surrounded by immeasurable things while the pretence cracks just enough when they give him something silver that neither of us saw coming and I can’t work the camera in the mess of joy and pain.

I huddle around the outskirts afterwards as t-shirts are signed and the clutter of emotions continue. After the presents had been dispatched we took his cup and photographed him in the reception class, back in the place where we left him playing with trains on his first day seven years ago, when I felt the tug of the bond and thought I understood separation.

And now I need to get ready, time to leave the settee and the soft ticking clock that has marked my time in this world and that one. The fingers that crept round through every pick up time that announced we’d be back home soon. The dial that hands brushed over when one world became the other, when our son sat here with his grandparents and I was somewhere else, about to faint, when time stopped completely despite appearances.
Same tick, same measurements of time, entirely different world now and it will still tick in the background later when we finally come home, when I bring our son back from Primary, a final fading of that background colour of his life that gave us some much needed structure when we shifted worlds.

Endings
Beginnings
Circles of loss

Time to say goodbye – again…
Xxx

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