In our Parting Shot series, readers share their experiences of expat life. Here, reader AMANDA GREENSLADE shares her story.
A New Chapter
Oh, wow! So overjoyed when I got two blue lines on a stick. Overemotional with his first few steps. Overloud when he played sports. Overawed when he graduated high school. Proud as punch when he got into uni. And so overwhelmed when he hugged me goodbye. Where did those years go?
A while ago, with nerves tingling, I left my 18-year-old son Alex at university in Australia. He is a long flight away in another city, in a different country to the one his close family live in. My strong, independent, gorgeous and sensitive boy I’ve watched grow daily is now on his own.
The evening I returned, our family dog Huffle was so excited to see me, but then he looked frantically for Alex. He eventually lay on the floor by the gate, his nose under the gap waiting and wondering where he was. My daughter Daisy, who had run to move her belongings into his room as soon as the taxi went around the corner the week before, has mixed emotions about her brother’s absence. Definitely missing him but enjoying being an only child for a change.
As I opened the door to the fridge the next day, I was shocked to see it full of the milk, cheese triangles, yoghurts and loaves of bread that were once inhaled daily by the growing lad. I’m amazed to find the cupboard full of clean glasses; they’re not all stuck upstairs in his room, left festering with dribbles of mouldy milk remains. The washing basket, not quite as full any more, shows no urgency. All these things that had irked me I now miss and yearn for.
Is he getting enough to eat? Will he remember to split the washing into darks and whites to avoid grey? Can he afford milk? Is he missing us? My worrying questions are endless.
On reflection, I treasured every moment – well, almost! – when he was growing. I watched him sleep, loving the occasional little smile on his face. I protected him from hidden dangers like wanting to eat the dog’s food. I argued with him, especially when I found his muddy boots left on the floor. And I spoiled him with hugs every night. I nagged at him to tidy this and mind that, taught him manners and to be kind to others. We travelled heaps – the backpack family off exploring and enjoying so many cultures; he has enjoyed two passports, grandparents at either ends of the globe, adventures galore and experiences beyond belief.
With all this in mind, I hadn’t realised the time ticking by so fast. Before I knew it, his examination results were arriving, his university application was accepted and we were finding student accommodation overseas. Sadly, we packed up his belongings to squeeze into two suitcases that, fingers crossed, wouldn’t be over the 60kg weight allowance to Australia.
In reality, I know he’s having an amazing time, making friends and discovering new and exciting places to explore. I question myself: would I change anything? I know that I can’t, but I also know I wouldn’t. I’m unbelievably proud of the young man he has become and look forward to his arrival back here for a holiday when I can listen to his news, eagerly do his washing and ensure my fridge is full!
A new chapter has started in all our lives. I will begin to explore new avenues, prepare myself for my daughter Daisy leaving in a few years, and hopefully realise my dream and write that book!
Oh, where did those years go?
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This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.