Other than bad news from home, if there’s a day in expatland that rocks your boat it’s surely the day visitors leave.
And, having been an expat for nearly a decade now, I’ve realised something: good-byes don’t get any easier.
Departures are generally abrupt and tend to sneak up on you. The day before is normal, full of activity, but with some packing-by-stealth in the evening (so the kids go to bed without a scene).
The next day, the leaving day, can even start quite normally with cups of tea served and some chit-chat. Then, suddenly, suitcases appear downstairs, placed by the door as though standing guard. Before you know it, good-byes are being said and, like a plaster being ripped off, your visitors are gone. Vanished. Whisked off to the airport by DH.
Where there was a book and a pair of reading glasses, there’s now a space. Where there were multiple mugs, there are suddenly empty coasters. Whereas just 12 hours previously my mind was buzzing with arrangements, meal plans and grocery runs, it’s now a void – the lists I made that served as my brain redundant.
As your visitors settle down to an airplane meal and a movie, you realise you hit pause on your expat life, turned down invites, disappeared off the radar so you could enjoy your guests, and now need to pick yourself up and resume day-to-day life. The only trouble is it’s hard to get off the sofa you’ve been so busy entertaining!
The other thing I’ve realised about visitors leaving is that grandchildren take empty nest syndrome to a new, and vocal, level. Oldest son was spirited away by the school bus before The Departure. Youngest son slept through it, then awoke to an echoey-quiet house.
“Where’s Nanny gone? Where’s Grand-da?” he cried, tears rolling down his cheeks. His face crumpled as a frantic search round the house revealed that I hadn’t hidden them.
His sobbing intensified further when he realised his brother had gone back to school (a week earlier than his nursery re-opens).
“I w.a.n.t to go to school,” he pleaded!
With a determined look on his face, he then put his shoes on and marched out the door – and we had no choice but to walk to ‘school’ to prove it was, indeed, locked.
“Where’s Ms Annette? Where’s evwy-one gone?,” he spluttered while standing at the gate in disbelief. “Evwy-one swimming? Nanny and Grand-da swimming too?” he enquired, finally satisfied he’d got to the bottom of it.
“Yes, LB, everyone’s swimming,” I replied to buy some time – thinking to myself, “Yes LB, I know. I feel it too.”