My mother used to have a sticker on her car that read, “Live long enough to be a burden to your children.” By the age of 31, she had six daughters giving herself plenty of time to fulfil this quest. Twenty three years later my parents departed from the Perth International Airport for the very first time. It was obvious they were virgin jet-setters because they didn’t turn and wave as they sailed down the hall to immigration. Everyone knows you have to turn and wave to your loved ones because this is the snap-shot you carry around in your head until you see them again. My mind began to drift back to that sticker.
Around us, people farewelled loved ones. A Middle Eastern family dawdled. There were handshakes before a young couple vanished behind the gate and some of the remaining family lingered, waving to emptiness. An African man clutched his pregnant wife, until she too disappeared. A whimpering boy clung to his father until pried off his leg, leaving the child hysterically wrapped around his mother. The coffee machine at Dome continued to gurgle unaffected; it was just another day.
Combined with my parents impending departure, normally I would have been sobbing after witnessing these farewells. I’m renowned for my tears at the airport and I’ve been warned several times already, “You’re not going to make a scene, are you?” I was sure the lump in my throat gave me the appearance of a snake who’d swallowed a rat. But the glint in my father’s eyes was infectious. He hadn’t been to bed for at least 24 hours, he bragged. My mother’s excitement was subdued at the realisation of having to spend the next few weeks joined at the hip with someone who was bouncing around like a little boy on Christmas Eve.
I suspected my resistance to tears was also related to my trance like state at having been awake since 3.30am.
The following day, my parents were re-united with my sister in London. This was a huge responsibility for her considering my mother’s habit of frequently going missing at the local shopping centre; even though she visits it every Thursday. Apparently, her poor sense of direction is genetic, but thankfully it’s missed a generation, which is lucky for my sister and her looming role as tour guide.
Being the oldest child, I felt it was my duty to hand out some tips. I tried to explain
how there are no road rules in Italy. I gave strict instructions to not use the Tube without supervision under ANY circumstances. Otherwise, the only time we’d get to see them is on the news when they have the missing persons segment. They nodded with amused looks on their faces. What would I be like when my own daughter ventured out into the world without me? Ah, the irony of it as I was usually the one on the other side of the magic doors, both literally and figuratively.
After the farewells were over and my family scrutinised my face for signs of distress, I was deemed fit to drive home. At 5.30am I slunk into bed and awoke an hour later disappointed to find myself still in Perth.