So often, one thing comes into your life, and another leaves. Occasionally there is a day where it seems that several things arrive, and several things leave. I thought of all the things I could say about the last 6 months, but it seems to pivot on such a day. One day, with the arrival of some good, if slightly unexpected news (another baby to be expected), followed by the devastating news that my closest friend was moving back to Canada, indefinitely.
And when I think of that now, I can’t help but laugh. In part because I found out I was expecting in the bathrooms at the Yorkshire Museum (apparently I do pregnancy tests all over York – with Ezra it was the library) and then I came outside to find my friend in tears with the completely unforseen news that they’d have to leave, and quite suddenly. And we blubbered and cried and were happy and sad and didn’t know how to process those two things at the same time.
And I think of that day often, because my body was so flooded with adrenalin and shock that I felt ill and also excited. But mostly just sad. I made the decision later that day, when faced with some unnecessary unpleasantness, to protect myself as best as I could. To surround myself only with the things and people that brought me some kind of goodness. Some kind of warmth, love, or support.
I felt sick for a few days after, which I attributed to early morning sickness, but which now I can see was the coming to terms with the idea that someone who had been in my life in such a big way would suddenly not be. I was in shock at the avalanche of good and bad news and I couldn’t feel either of them fully because I was overwhelmed.
I think of that one day in September because every other day before was spent so closely with this one person. The thought of having to cleave our lives apart when it was the very last thing we wanted seemed so unfair and so untimely. How could I not see her every day, or perhaps worse, how could I explain to my daughter that her best friend (my friend’s daughter) would be leaving and going back to Canada?
I was used to something, and now that thing was changing and I couldn’t recognise what my days would look like after. I wanted to be happy about being pregnant again, and I was, but the immediacy of what was going on – the upheaval of helping to pack up a life and watching those lives move country, was so much more pressing. I waited, and I tried not to fall apart every time we did something we so often did for the last time. Visited the museum gardens. Went for coffee at the designer outlet. Stayed up late to talk even when we were so tired that sleep made much more sense.
Perhaps it seemed strange too, from the outside. After all, it’s a friend – one friend among many, and not even a particularly old one. But none of that matters. We all know that what matters is holding onto to the people we find who we can love wholly, who can love us wholly back. When you meet someone and they become one of your people, and you spend your days together and your life begins to entangle, and you think of them as some sort of always friend, who you just happened to meet when you are 30, it is no easy thing to get used to their absence.
Then they left, and we missed them, and we miss them every day. For a while Ezra stood at the window and shouted my friend’s name, ‘Anne! Anne!’ over and over. When people came to visit he would say to them, ‘Anne gone!’. Ava seemed okay to begin with, and then when it began to sink in that this sudden absence was not a holiday but something more definite, she started to complain, or tell me how much she missed her friend. She offered to empty her money tin and use it to buy flights over to Canada. She would save bits of food for ‘when I next see Audrey’ and I would try not to show how devastated I was for her.
And things carried on. Winter came and we anticipated Christmas with activities and outings and stories and hot chocolates. I allowed myself time and space to focus on this new little one that will be joining us in a few months. Ava’s excitement at the prospect of a sister (absolute refusal to consider having another brother) grew and we started to carve out spaces for a new and different family dynamic.
But the swell of getting to know someone so incredible, of having found someone so important, and the reluctant loosening of that – that, more than anything else, has defined my last year.
And the last few months in particular, has seen a slow acceptance of a new pace – dealing with the overwhelming tiredness and sickness of the first trimester, holing up at home often and sleeping when time and opportunity would allow it, and sometimes rather ungracefully lamenting the heavy absence of my friend.
Now, I am looking forward to her return (to visit, and, I hope, more permanently in the future), and I am focused on the arrival of whoever this new person is. And I know it will all make sense as time passes, who is coming and going, who is staying and leaving, even if it is hard to grasp as it happens.