When you’ve just broadcast your departure for places farflung, it becomes kind of bad form to keep popping up in the spots people usually expect to see you.
Instead of the normal ‘hi- how are you’ sort of greetings, a quick visit to the supermarket or appearance at a neighbour’s party earns a whole bunch of variations on the “you still here?” theme. To the point you feel at tad fraudulent about farewelling anyone. Until the real departure. Then it all gets quite hard.
When you’ve had the ‘last’ dinner/lunch/coffee and you’re at the point where seeing someone is no longer going to be a daily/weekly event, it starts to feel just a bit final. A lucky token greenstone necklace delivered with an impromptu speech about friendship reduces me to tears. An outbreak of balloons at the ferry taking me off the island starts a pattern that oddly repeats.
A blue one, straying away from its companions floats gently out as the boat leaves. The rest – tied to the van – are eagerly divvied up by my four-year-old twin grandsons when I arrive at my next stop in Auckland to steadily meet the usual deflating fate of all their kind. But a few days later, as I pack to leave again, a stray white balloon wafts fatly into the backyard where I’ve been parked up, dancing around the wheels. I have no idea where it came from.
By then I’ve had to provide answers to endless repetitions from one twin of the same question. “But why are you going in your van and driving a long way away?”
An outbreak of bad behaviour later he tells his mum that he doesn’t want nana to leave.
It starts a whole round of questions in my own mind. Why exactly am I going? I have the best home, great friends, a loving partner, close family…..
I don’t know. There’s a restlessness for the things that I don’t know, the people I haven’t met, the roads I have never driven. And in a few weeks’ time, there will be my Mum – and a family Christmas with the South Island clan.
I hope it all makes sense as I go along.