The piles of bags and open boxes in the hallways of our house have been growing for several weeks now. My wife and daughter disappear on sorties and return home with more. There are frequent bursts of Whatsapp activity I am not privy to. More parcels arrive by post.
It’s clear there’s a masterplan behind this bustle but I am holed up in my studio oblivious to it. I sit there pretending to work, my suspicions increasing.
I peer into the boxes looking for small green bottles of poison only to find a mug tree. The search for a bonesaw turns up a vintage writing slope. The urge to verbalise the question I ask myself in my head a dozen times a day increases: “Are you planning to murder me and start a new life with the vast fortune I have accumulated making comics? If so I have some bad news about the vast fortune I told you I have accumulated.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked for that Hitchcock boxed set for Christmas. Or watched Gaslight while the rest of the household were out in the cathedral at night. It has only exacerbated my overactive imagination.
As it turns out, grisly butchery is not afoot. Our daughter is leaving for university.
Of course I was aware of this but it has been an indistinct object hovering on the horizon for some time, neither getting closer or further away. Time has slowed since March. Weekdays blurred into weekends. Graduations were another thing occuring on a screen. Local lockdowns were threatened. It was all a bit theoretical. Now, all of a sudden, a genuine life event has grabbed me by the shoulders and given me a violent shake.
Much planning has been taking place. Preparation, lists, admin, log-ins, packing and trips to Ikea on a weekend. All essential, real world, time-consuming stuff that has required attention. I have devolved all decision making in this area to Phil and done the only thing I am qualified to do: draw a card.
According to Phil’s reading of the Facebook group dedicated to the parents of kids going to uni I am even more negligent than I realised. I have not been searching Amazon for precisely the right wardrobe extender rail for our daughter’s flat. Our child has been raised by wolves, that or I have retired my helicopter parenting licence earlier than some.
Thanks to several sleepless nights spent planning this crack military operation, Phil packs everything in our old-lady-dog-walker car perfectly. I never knew we were driving around a bird crap encrusted TARDIS this whole time. I’m relieved not to have to wear three of my daughter’s coats, the oven gloves and balance numerous cacti on my lap while driving there.
I have two jobs. One is to haul all my daughter’s stuff into her flat within the allotted time. The other is to try not to cry in an ugly and embarrassing manner in public spaces. I am certain I can achieve one of these.
After the heavy lifting I leave Phil and our daughter to do the unpacking. Due to Covid only one parent is allowed in the flat at a time. I take a stroll around the campus. There’s a pleasant green space with a lake. A man takes a photo of two white swans with their large brown signet. Preparations for outdoor events are taking place. Flags fly, tents are being put up. You would hardly know you are in the middle of a city.
I sit for a while in the sun. Students walk past making new friends. Starting out on their new lives. I’m still struck by how young they look.
Returning from a trip to Sainsbury’s, Phil and I sit in the car and are judgemental about other parent’s packing choices. When you are at the top of your game you are gifted these privileges. After a pizza together it’s time to leave.
On the motorway home the white lines are curiously blurred. It’s some miles before I’m composed enough to overtake.
At home I climb the stairs. An exercise band, a textbook on Theological Aesthetics and two mismatched socks remain. Her bed is neatly made.
I remember going away to college. How eager I was to leave home, and how nervous. Coming home again but never fully returning. The push-me-pull-you of the first steps towards independence.
It was a good thing.
Time for a cup of tea.
Help me pay off our debts to Ikea by purchasing fine items from my store:
Dumped. A colour re-print of an old favourite.
Brighten up the home/student flat of the socially distanced book lover in your life with this Book Tour poster.