Throughout my childhood, I played with my Lego and Playmobils and sang songs by “The Wombles” with my sisters at the top of my voice. I loved the smell of wet earth after rain fall, jumped in piles of leaves, got tearful at the end of the school term and wondered why I got goose pimples when I heard people singing together. I pushed my finger into the corners of the crisp packet to enjoy the hidden remnants of the stinging salt and vinegar flavour. I wondered if all this would magically stop when I was a grown-up, and waited impatiently for the morning I would awake knowing what I wanted to be and where I wanted to go in life. That day, I would stride out of the door with my briefcase in my hand on my way to my Very Important Job (whatever that would be), pick my kids up from school and expertly manage my life as a super mum and spouse juggling children, work and marriage better than Martha Stewart ever could.
When I was 18, I did not know that at the age of 45 I would still be doing all those things (except becoming wonder woman – but I have a s**t load more fun with all that housework and ironing forgotten). I left home to study French at University, thrilled to be beginning my adult life – even if I only knew that I wanted to get my backside over to France and stay there for ever, it was a good enough start as any. My Dad took me to the railway station to wave me off, and although he did his best to contain his feelings, his emotion seeped into my every pore.
Although I didn’t entirely understand his state of mind at that time, the wheel has turned and today I sure as hell understand. In less time than it takes Flash Gordon to get to planet Mongo, I have grown older and the three kilos of my firstborn baby has morphed into a towering bilingual teen with a Baccalauréat grasped victoriously in his hand. He is ready to fly the coop, raring at the bit to move into his own apartment. He is making plans for the future. I am looking on with a mixture of anxiety, envy and pride. He is now making his own choices, and will maybe remember the looks on our faces as we wish him well in his new abode (at least until he arrives home with his first bag of laundry two weeks later). And one day, his choices may lead him to that very same place we stand as parents today. Wondering where the time has gone. Looking back at his youth, looking forward to his child’s adult life…. and maybe envisaging the moment when he will chase me down the street in my underwear and slippers, clutching an empty packet of crisps in my hand and jumping in leaves as I sing “Remember you’re a Womble” at the top of my voice.