H.A.G.S.

I knew that yesterday was going to be tough. For a girl who refuses to say good-bye there would have to be some major avoidance involved. I walked through the school corridors cautiously. I watched as hugs were given, then switched focus, found someone who looked happy. Someone who was coming back. For yesterday would be the day, the last day. This was the end of the road in Doha for some.

The second little traveller is blissfully unaware that a couple of her friends may not be coming back. We will wait and see what the  summer brings, decisions are yet to be made. For her it was all about her teacher, one of the best, going. I read the messages on her shirt. Signatures, notes and scrawls in different coloured Sharpies.

“What’s H.A.G.S.?”

“Have a great summer!”

The fourth little traveller watched me hug a friend “wait, they’re not leaving are they?” I explained my goodbye was temporary – we’d see them in September. “That’s good – there’s been too many forever goodbyes this year.”

“There has been.” I said with a wince.

The third little traveller launched himself out of the classroom, there were still signatures for the year book, people to see, things to do. While he was stuffing things into his backpack while looking over his shoulder he passed me a bag of papers “Mum, when I grow up I’m going to build a time machine so I can go back and do Grade 4 again – man, it was so good.”

As people walked past the little travellers muttered their credentials “he’s from Canada…she’s from Lebanon…his brother’s in year 6, she’s leaving…he’s coming back…he’s leaving.” This has been their life. Goodbyes in June. Hello’s in August.

Initially I thought it was two mothers, locked together, squeezed tightly in an embrace. Shoulders heaved in time with the tears. And then I recognised the sneakers. It my first little traveller and her girlfriend who’s moving to London. When they finally unlocked they stood staring at each other, wiping the tears from their cheeks, giggling at their emotional outbreak.

My lips started to quiver, I knew the girl, she’d been dropped at our house for birthday parties, I worked with her mother in the concession stand at Softball. She was smart, like two years ahead in math smart, gorgeous, and had a smile I knew I was going to miss.

“I hate this part”. I said as the first little traveller came to join us. “I hate that you have to do this.” She nodded, smiled and put her sunglasses on.

When you’re raised in a small town where people rarely leave, the last day of school is always happy. The last day of school signifies holidays, fun, a break. In the expat world, the end of the year often signifies the end of an era. Relocation, removals, packs ups.

We drove to lunch with our tear stained cheeks. Happy to be on holidays, sad to be saying goodbye and grateful for those who’d be staying behind. Fun times ahead – for all of us.

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