It’s 5am. In the past three hours, I’ve reached over three times trying to find her little toes. Because by this time, she’s padded over the landing and crept into my bed because she’s scared.
And each time I reach over, I remember she’s not here. Rosie, aged 6, is on her first school trip away from home.
There. I’ll let that settle in on the screen.
My 6-year-old is fending for herself with a bunch of other kids somewhere in Hertfordshire. Which, to be fair, is about 20 minutes up the road from where I live, but… come on, she’s six. And although I know she’s having a great time, I worry that I can’t be there to comfort her in the moments when she’s not.
I don’t quite know why, but sitting here, listening to the birds call outside my window, feeling the absolute stillness of my home, I’m put in mind of Boyhood.
When the boy (now man) takes the last of his things to leave for university, his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, breaks down and says: “Is that all that’s left?”
And by that she means, is that it? After several failed relationships and having retired from her job, is this the sum total of her life? Is alone all she’s got left?
In that moment, I understood my mum – her anger and despair at my leaving not just home, but the country to make a life elsewhere. And I understood my future, too.
Why should I be spared the same grief? Like my mum, I have no partner to re-connect with or take comfort in. Yes, I have my projects, my books, my incomplete travels. But the essential loneliness… that’s something you can’t shake, no matter how much reading, writing and exploring you do.
But Rosie, my dear, thoughtful Rosie, anticipated at least some of this. Before she left, she made a card for Ben and me, “so that you won’t forget me.” What she really meant, and I know this because she said so later, was, “So that you won’t feel lonely.”
I’m not sharing it here, because it’s a card meant only for us – it’s private. But you get the picture. As long as she and I are thinking about each other and being happy for each other’s happiness, neither of us is really alone.