Ten to midnight, Monday night. Driving in the car. Younger son is staring out of the side window, taking in the orange town as it slides by.
“I feel like I’m seeing everything for the last time,” he said.
It’s only the School Tour. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s going to be great. Barcelona, vibrant city, Gaudi, Picasso, Swimming Pools, Beaches, Theme Parks. Five days of comradely fun and adventure. It will be great.
Except, at ten to midnight, Monday night, it’s not entirely great. There’s a potentially sleepless overnight trip on a bus, an early morning flight into the unknown and a full day of sightseeing and orientation in prospect, while home, with its cosy bed, recedes rapidly in the rear view mirror.
The bus hasn’t arrived at the school yet. Students stand around sleepily in rucksacked conspiracies. There isn’t any opportunity for a demonstrative goodbye, that might play badly with the huddled masses. Not even an assist with the baggage. There must be no sign of weakness here. Younger son joins the cohort and is immediately assimilated within. Soaked up and enveloped in comradely anticipation and, suddenly, the worst is all over, the adventure has finally begun and it’s going to be fine.
Time to go back home but who can go back home until the bus is seen to have arrived and the passengers are seen to be safely on board? But to wait and watch would be to possibly expose younger son to some gentle ribbing. Old dad refuses to go. That will not stand. Two quick tours of the town and there it is, the darkened bus, lapping against the edge of the pavement like a ship at a dock.
There is no need to wait anymore. The cohort have assembled, the transport arranged.
Time to go home.
An adjusted line from a well-known song occurs on the drive home. It gets posted on Social Media. People seem to understand.
“Samuel is flying tonight on a plane…”
The phone announces receipt of the text at 3.50am on Saturday morning. The bus is ten minutes out from the school. Time to go get him. The time he spent in the air, earlier, was a little odd. Flying is safe and everyday and unworrysome but, still, your kid is thousands of feet above the ground in a steel tube and things are always a little better when the website finally refreshes to say that the plane has arrived.
The parents all park their cars in the place where the bus needs to stop so that causes a momentary hiatus but it's easily enough solved. Teachers and students disembark and, despite the oddness of the hour, everyone is smiling and relaxed. Younger son is eight inches taller than when he left, resplendent in salmon coloured shorts and t-shirt. Baggage is rounded up and goodbyes are swapped. Is everyone okay for a lift? Yes, mum is on her way, she just slept through the text.
Home. Travel case abandoned in the hall. A quick face wash to remove the journey grime and straight to bed for a deep twelve hour sleep.
The school tour is over. Respect to the teachers who herd our kids through this notable rite of passage. Respect to the kids who hesitantly go away and smilingly come back again. Respect to us parents, who are glad to see it all work out so nice and who won’t park in the bus spot next time.
Well, maybe not.