Getting on a train again. Rucksack on my back. Just me. Just me. Sitting. Reading. Listening to music. Heading into what feels like a time vault. Time with friends who have known me the longest outside family. Who have lived and loved alongside me as we have journeyed through this life. Friends outside each other’s immediate context providing that perspective which helps so much.
Arriving. Eating amazing food together. The three of us in person again. Nothing has stopped this meeting of bliss. Complex arrangements have been made all round for us to step outside of the normal, to leave behind our everyday lives and to slip into another world for a while.
We talk, laugh, enjoy eating food our children would reject and moan about, we walk around pretty places, enjoying freedom of movement, enjoying sharing tales from our worlds. We sit in the sun. We gaze at each other and ask ‘how are you?’ We tell of our tiredness, our exhaustion, our aching bodies, our desires, our lives, our joys, our hopes and fears. We gaze at blue sky and green grass. We offer these things into the hands of the God who made us, walks with us, delights in us.
We hug one of us goodbye, back to her boys, knowing the future may offer us more of her and her more of us. For now we are grateful for the time given.
The two of us left ponder dinner, buy lovely food, drink wine, ask each other deep questions and remember again the joy of a world beyond the time of the normal, no others to make any demands on us.
We laugh and watch Friends, an apt choice for this foray back in time to our 20s when we didn’t have to move heaven and earth to hang out together.
Sleep is followed by a leisurely breakfast in the garden, a long walk in the sunshine ending up at a pub for lunch. We head back for naps and reading in the sunshine. We watch the Friends reunion, even more drawn back into our former lives, then munch chocolate in awe that we managed to have such a day together.
Slowly I feel the pull of reality, the relationships that define and shape my everyday. The small ones whose faces I miss against mine. The sad faces this morning on my phone wanting Mummy cuddles. The tinges of guilt over such a luxury of a couple of days getting to do whatever I want. The remembrance that I belong with my beautiful husband, with my gorgeous boys.
I stand sipping coffee on a train platform amazed at the novelty of this act in our pandemic world. I gaze at rusty bridges and am transported back to times in Eastern Europe in my 20s, to travelling on trains through the Polish countryside with students. I try to link the parts of me together, try to sew together the past and present. I sit and read and write and imagine my life in Brighton as the train rattles towards it, grateful for the sun, my friends, my family, my job, my location and the chance to slip out of it all for 48 hours.