I am lost. It’s as if I am a sleepwalker woken up in another room. Even the face of my waker is a stranger to me. Nothing is where I left it; my books closed and unread, abandoned in piles at my bedside. This Autumn, a season of such unexpected warmth and sunshine, has left me in darkness. I am constantly cold. Some days I leave my coat on until my daughter comes home from school. I tear it off and shove it into the closet when I hear her footstep at the front door. I bake and I cook but I don’t eat. While my family swirls in and out of this little house I am left standing at a center that I cannot hold. But, I am trying, so very hard. For the first time I am so separate from my children that sometimes I don’t even say goodnight to my daughter, embarrassed that at 8:30 I can’t keep my head up anymore. She is in her room, chatting, working, singing Christmas carols in a high, sweet soprano, and I am in mine, a single lamp puddling light on a book that won’t be read. I am homesick and I can’t go home.
I have had a house guest for the past ten days. This is not the best situation for me. I am a solitary type and when there are others around, even my husband or child, for more than a bit I become slightly frantic. Claustrophobia grips me and my temper is short, my speech terse and unloving. In this small house anyone but a hobbit would find themselves shrinking into a corner at the press of bodies in the kitchen, the trail of shoes at the foot of the stairs, the untidy aspect of every single room.
It rained today as Emma and I walked to school. It had started in the night, great gusts of wind and rain hammering at the windows in my bedroom under the eaves. Emma, as used to be the case when David traveled more, slept with me. It had been months since she’d joined me. Her long legs migrated to my side of the mattress and her heat woke me before the rain. Only a few inches shorter than I am, Emma had suddenly taken over not just my bed but my body, in a way. She sprawled, jack-knifed, splayed and scrambled in her dreams until I had to shove her away. I lay in the dark listening to the storm pass through Cambridge and (after the obligatory dead of night stumble to the bathroom) thought about what I’d do the next day if the rain continued.
This begins the first of the lasts for us in London. We will leave London next Tuesday, our 25th wedding anniversary–and what a festive way to spend it, cramming the last bits and bobs into our suitcases, struggling through security where all the metal bolts and pulleys in my back will necessitate yet a another officer-escorted visit to the “cubby of revelation,” another display of much scar-age and X-rays. Why, I can’t think of a more fitting way to depart. Yes, I can but apparently the Concorde has been retired and Prince Charles has not yet recovered from our last meeting so he’ll skip the send off.