I tentatively unlock the door…tiptoeing inside.
It’s past midnight and I’ve just made a two hour round trip weaving speedily through the darkness of town, having taken my parents to the airport on the city’s outskirts.
Another goodbye. This one was hard. (Who am I kidding, they’re always hard. Some are just tinged with a little more heaviness than others.)
I’m confident I’m not alone. At this time of the year, airports are overflowing with people coming and going. (I’ll try not to go all Love Actually on you here!) But you get my drift? As they say, airports can be the happiest and the saddest of places in the world.
Being left behind in a strange country always adds to the weight. It still doesn’t feel like my home and yet here I am – standing in a strange airport, surrounded by unfamiliar voices, virtually meaningless signs and a way of doing things I still find a little confronting…. waving off my loved ones (throwing in a few Chinese words for good measure) like I belong here.
We’ve just spent 25 minutes waiting behind a barricade (like a herd of cattle) guarded by a man wearing a hardhat and toting a gun before we’re allowed to move through to check in. I’m not even sure I’m allowed in to this closed off area but I’m determined to get mum and dad on the plane, safely.
Flying Air Asia along a similar route to the recent fateful flight means there is naturally a hint of anxiety hanging over us. Recent stories of aeroplane doors being randomly opened on China flights not helping the cause.
I shove my hands in my puffer jacket pocket and force myself to grin broadly at mum and dad, as they timidly make their way through to immigration, so they know, I’m ok.
Then with a wave, a last smile, and a tear, they are gone. Just like that.
It takes me back to my first few months in Hong Kong when I’d just had Ava. My family had kindly come over to share the love and the load. After weeks in the intense baby bubble together, they each left one by one …there I was standing left holding a new baby, and a bucket load of tears.
This time the tears are a little more restrained as I walk back to the car with a ‘driver.’
I text my sister. “Safely dispatched through immigration,” I say, knowing she’ll be waiting for them at the other end.
Home …and there on the bench sit the remnants of mum’s red wine, her lipstick marks still on the glass. The ubiquitous letter and card we always leave each other on the table with plenty of ‘Thank you’s’ and ‘I love you to the moon and back.’
The Christmas tree is down and the bare house symbolic of life a little less colourful on all accounts.
It’s been a big couple of weeks for us all….memories have been made, laughs had, presents wrapped and unwrapped, candles blown out, a few tears….some moments more hairy than others; as together we navigated a city that’s both fascinating, challenging and frustrating all at once!
In bed that night I find myself reading through a piece I wrote about finishing high school and what life would hold for me. There’s a distinct note puncturing each sentence – of hope for a life resembling anything but normality. Well, I certainly got that I smile to myself.
Living away from home, it’s a constant pull between home comforts verses adrenalin-fuelled adventures.
The expat life gets you in its grip and makes you feel like you can’t live without it…a limited offer, you can’t miss – it teases!
One day soon, you’ll be back home….no doubt wondering were you ever really there at all…
But for now, it’s one foot in, one foot out…another ‘hello and goodbye’ just around the corner.
As Christmas trees come down across the globe and tinsel is packed away for another year, Santa sacks folded, resolutions made (some already broken), loved ones farewelled; do you feel the energy of a new year ahead or the flatness of a fiesta finished all too soon?
I’m curious, how do you cope saying goodbye to loved ones?