“Where is it?” shrieks my wife.
“My small suitcase?” I ask.
“Your large suitcase?”
“No. The other child. Where is it?”
As the children are getting older my wife’s finding it increasingly hard to keep a lid on her emotional coldness, and frequently refers to them as inanimate objects. A trait I find unnerving because I am surely next.
We have spent the last week in an ancient cottage on a cliff-side in Devon, and now it’s time to leave. I spot my 7-year-old daughter saying a final goodbye to objects in the garden she has bonded with. She approaches a tree, strokes it gently and says, ‘Goodbye tree’ and gives it a reassuring pat. I see this sweet scene as a great opportunity to see how cold my wife has become.
“Quick. Look at this. Our daughter is being really cute,” I say and look back to my wife, who is reading the heartfelt comments in the visitors’ book and laughing at them.
“You wont believe what this guy’s written,” she says. “Listen to this, ‘Thank you so much for our amazing honeymoon. We loved every second. We’re so lucky to have spent 7 wonderful days here with…Auntie Jan, Uncle Barrie and Jerry’.” Her eyes widen. “Who the hell brings their Auntie Jan and Uncle Barrie on honeymoon with them? And who is this mysterious, Jerry?”
I shrug my shoulders and look over to my daughter who is saying goodbye to the shed. “Goodbye shed,” she says. I glance back to my wife who is flicking wildly through the book to see if Jerry went on honeymoon with anyone else.
My teenage son shuffles into the room. “The internet’s not working,” he huffs, then shuffles into the kitchen and eats my chocolate. I open my wallet and look at a picture of my teenage son when he was 7, and wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye to the boy he once was; just to relive that precious moment, but the teenage years take your child away from you like a thief in the night, and leave you with a chocolate-fuelled wanking machine.
My daughter and I are the last to leave. I hear my wife impatiently beeping the horn. Our daughter runs around the cottage to say a final goodbye to all the rooms. I stand alone at the foot of the stairs with my memories, small suitcase and her Dora Explorer rucksack, which is full of stuff from the garden that she couldn’t bear to say goodbye to.
We lock the door one last time together. She hides the key under the mat and we make our way up the crunchy pebble pathway to the car. My wife smiles, sticks her head out of the window and says “Just put that in the boot.”
“The suitcase or the child?” I say.