Me, about 30 years ago…
One of my best friends flew over at the weekend. It’s a short flight. If that. Hardly up before you’re down again. If someone buys a coffee and BLT the crew barely get time to go down the aisle with the warm-perfume trolley or try to sell you a diamante key ring with a flying bear on it. But none of that really matters. You still go up 30,000 feet. You’re still sitting with your head in the clouds. And I suppose if you’re a little bit scared of flying, it really doesn’t matter how long you’re flying for, or where you’re going. You probably don’t even know exactly why you’re scared. But you do know there’s a whole lot of sky under your feet.
So, we’re starting Primary One and it turns out it’s a short flight. It’s only an hour on the first day. They mainly ‘just’ play and listen to a story. They don’t actually wear the full school uniform yet, the proper little pinafore and white knee socks that my daughter is desperate to wear. And once they do finish the ‘settling in’ period – it’s still only a couple of hours they’re actually there. Hardly time to let your nail varnish dry (she says tongue firmly in cheek). The ‘snack trolley’ doesn’t even come around.
But none of that really matters. The length of the flight I mean.
What matters is when you find yourself standing in the kitchen the night before it All Begins, tears running down your cheeks, trying to get your iron-on name tags to iron on, despite the fact you’ve used the iron three times this year thanks to his chunkier cousin, the tumble drier, and so when it says ‘use medium setting or mid temp’ it might as well say ‘hjhdffbbfkgfgbdjf’ because quite frankly this is the bit you’re not good at. You suddenly realise two things:
- This would make an amazing M&S advert for school uniforms – this very scene – the Mum standing ironing the tags on the new clothes. Dramatic tear lands on uniform and sizzles under the iron. #everymilestone
- You are ‘The Mum’. This is very, very real. And you’re probably a bit scared.
It’s one of those moments that people tell you is a Big One. And the thing is, I thought I was oka about it. Because I presumed the reason people feel teary is because they’re sad about missing their wee one for that hour or two every day, or because they feel their ‘baby’ is slipping away.
That’s not how I feel.
Because that’s the thing, that’s the reason it’s hard to iron name tags on. Everyone feels it differently. For me, the tears were one big muddle. Of love, of pride, of joy, of excitement, of fear. But mainly it was just seeing her name. My palindrome. The same forwards as backwards. I’d never seen it on a name tag before.
I’ve written it hundreds of times, on birthday cards, medical forms, crayon drawings of Mummy, Daddy and brother. But there was something indefinable about seeing it so neat, so pristine, so ready, completely ‘uniform’ on her new school jumper.
And although I’m just standing ironing in my kitchen on a Sunday night, like thousands of parents across the country – in my mind we’re getting ready to fly. To go to some really exciting new places, to learn to read, to understand stories we couldn’t read before, to make letters and know they mean something. To play every day like it matters more than breath. Because it sort of does.
Monday morning comes and we are ready for take off. Seat belts are on and baggage is stowed well out of sight. She comes into the room and I swallow back my tears, comedy-yawn and turn them into silly-nonsense-mummy-got an-eyelash-in-her-eye. I remember what they say in the on-flight safety card you have to read before you fly somewhere very exciting: “Always fit your own oxygen mask before helping others.” And so I breathe. And together we let a little bit of sky pass under our feet.
By Kerry Thomson
Read Kerry’s blog at Ithinkthatsagibbon.wordpress.com