This is the day we usually spend tarting up the house. By this I mean as well as the vaccuuming and general cleaning, we’ve shake the creases out of the duvets in the spare rooms and make sure the dead flies on the window ledges and spiderwebs in the corners of the rooms, are well and truly gone. We stock up on saveloys, 2 minute noodles and horribly overseasoned rice crackers and make sure we buy three times more bread than usual and a 2 litre container of milk. We find the plastic glasses, the glasses-with-the-cows-on and the children’s plates. We add the extra knives and forks to the cutlery. Outside, the canoes and the eel trap are pulled down from the garage ceiling. The holding pool is pulled out of the weeds under the trees because eels in this neck of the woods are strictly catch, count and release. We bring out the onion bags we’ve saved all year and debate whether or not to thaw out one of the frozen chicken carcasses for bait. Our lawn is mowed, the edges whacked into submission, the strawberries counted and given the last rites. The back boot of the car is emptied of the large collection of re-usable shopping bags and we look at each other – not long now. About 10pm the messages start. ‘Ruby Anderson has checked in, Sophie Anderson has checked in, Xanthe Anderson has checked in’ and even though I lie in the dark pretending to sleep, I’m not. Finally my phone buzzes and tells me it’s time to move. We put on coats and shoes and drive out to the airport. Jim and Trish who always have them at the beginning, are usually there ahead of us and we laugh and plan and imagine how much they’ll have grown and before we know it, they’re rushing through the door towards us, uncertain who to hug first but knowing it’s not going to be the last one. We go back home grinning and knowing it’s started. That over the next few days we’ll be out there again soon collecting their parents and the whole other family who come from further afield bringing little girls who are starting now to remember another home and what it’s like to have cousins.
That’s how it’s been. And now it’s not.
So I’ve had a little cry and I’m trying to imagine how wonderful it will be when it finally happens. Because we can’t live like this forever. Right?