How I came to be stood on Andover train station on a Saturday afternoon nearing the end of November waving inwardly to a disappearing train as realisation hit, is a different story altogether. Suffice to say rail engineering works had disrupted the normal timetable and a personal trip to Oxford for a meal led me via Andover.
We arrived at the station and realised we had just missed the train to London, but we had a complicated list of ticket related purchases to organise so the lack of pressure was not unwelcome. Finally sorted with tickets we made our way to the platform. A warming cup of tea was essential and a few moments to catch up on all the last 19 years’ worth of chit chat although I was unaware really of the whole significance of the conversation.
Number 1 Son had announced earlier that week that he had enjoyed being up on the boat in London so much that he was going to return this week. I had persuaded him to delay the trip by a day a couple of times but this time he was serious. He had negotiated a deal to allow him to stay on the boat for a bit longer, now with packed bag, phone, wallet and probably a few nerves we were sat waiting for a train.
“You do know this is me leaving home?” he informed me “I will only be coming back for visits from now on”
Dismissing the point of the comment I concerned myself with clean underwear, toothbrush, and enough money to buy food. He had his phone, he had his laptop; I persisted with the importance to call, email, message me in the mornings and evenings just so we knew he was ok. After all he would be on a cold wet dock with ice and damp a very real threat, no one to notice if he was ok or not. Deaf ears come to mind.
As the minutes ticked by the tea turned cold in unison with the lead forming in my heart. He was 18 and about to take a huge step out of our lives and into his own independent future and I could not hold him back.
The announcer informed the sparsely peopled station that the train would arrive in a few moments. Flapping around with all the good motherly advice I could think of to impart to an 18 year old going to find fame and fortune in London. I knew I had done it at his age but I seemed so much more grown up in those days!
I reeled off a list of where to find temping agencies, suggestions on what searches he could use on the internet, reminded him of all the local jobs he should apply for as he dutifully listened only to file in the ‘delete later’ compartment of his brain.
It was so quick when it came, a flurry of activity as the train whooshed into the station, doors open, a shimmying and pushing as people got off and got on, doors closed and whoosh the train was gone. And with it my son, my first born, my first to leave the family home, and with him a whole new chapter of his life opened as a huge chapter of mine irreversibly closed.
It took me some while before I stopped staring into the distance imagining I could just see the speck of train through the damp mist forming in my eyes as I squinted. Slowly, feeling as if part of me had left on the train, I retraced my steps towards the car; empty and lost I continued on my journey.
My efforts to remain cheerful focused on the fact No 1 Son had a 19th birthday the following weekend and was coming back to party with us and friends over a long celebratory weekend so I knew his leaving home was short-lived. Two weeks after that he would be home again for Christmas, it is a long time since I had yearned for the festive season to arrive so quickly.
He did arrive home for his birthday with the news that he had a job in a bar in the centre of London starting the following week. Before leaving again he did attend two local job interviews that had come up while he was away. Careful weighing up and ignoring all the solid advice of his parents as to the security and future of the jobs and how his room was waiting for him to move back in again; all fell into the delete later brain cell.
I found myself 10 days later, again waving to the back of a London bound train with part of my heart aboard it. Sexy Sporty Dad and I may be incredibly proud of his actions and independence but we are wishing for Christmas to hurry up and bring him safely home. Brave and independent he may be but he also seems completely unable to communicate that he is safe and well. Although my spy network picks up hints that he seems to be enjoying working and meeting people and the odd phone call home reiterates he is alive and surviving.
With all the technology and gizmos available to us these days I am hoping the miles between are minimised and I can imagine him just upstairs or still out with friends. Hopefully now that he is becoming a grown up his communications when he does contact us will be far more meaningful than the teenage grunts we have been used to over the past few years.