Leaving home

H

Leaving home

Judging by your expression, as we sat side-by-side on the edge of the just-made bed
You needed us to stay, just a touch longer than the other parents
Who with a cool wave through car windows bless nonchalant offspring
Before crunching down the gravel track to empty nests.
Precariously balanced, we toy with words
And weigh the spaces between our sentences.
Unsure how to express what we want to say
Not wanting to lose this moment
This build-up of 18 years.

Memories flood back.
The tip and glitter of stabilisers on that sunny lurch
Across Hengistbury Head, gulls wheeling overhead
The first piano lesson, knees tucked tightly together
In nylon shorts, more chatter than playing
The snapshots of you on the hills, that photographed
Familiar grimace, the same three weeks ago
In the cold Langdale Pikes as we ended an era
The nights sat on the bed reading stories. You a little too big
For this joint exploration into another world
But still your head easing into my neck
And here years later, on the university bed
We run the risk of meaning too much
But saying too little.
I ask how long you would like us to stay: “Forever!”
You respond and we both laugh, me roaring to cover my fear
You shyly like I haven’t seen you do for years
We have a final walk around the campus
A snatched ice cream and finally next to the car
You tell your mum off because she supposed to cry
And isn’t, and then the big man hug comes
You look down at me, taller now
And, knowing that the tables have turned
You check on me as I slip
From your grip into the driving seat
And I sit there, the windscreen wobbling with the image
Of you fumbling with the new plastic key code
Before you finally disappear from sight
Into the new hall door, of your new life.