All through the morning they gathered in the hall: carrier bags, storage boxes, holdalls. The moment of my daughter’s departure for university could not be delayed for much longer. I would not be going on the trip, for two reasons, the first being my lack of energy and the second being that there would not be room for a third person in the car.
I did use my day’s allowance of strength to pack the car though, noting the number of small mementoes and creature comforts that my daughter was taking with her to make her room in the hall of residence more like home. A couple of friends of hers had already set off for their new place of study in the North, one having apparently forgotten her duvet, but my wife and daughter could be a bit more leisurely, Canterbury only being a couple of hours or so away.
After a quick lunch of baked beans, it was time for them to set off. A long hug in the hall, some tears and a brief word of blessing and my daughter was gone, a few scattered possessions in her room that had not made it into her luggage remaining as poignant reminders of her living presence.
I watched three consecutive episodes of The Sopranos to drown my feelings, but more tears came at the end of the second episode. We are hugely excited for our daughter of course as she enters this next stage of her education and I keep reminding myself that she is only a text or a Skype call away, but there is no escaping the fact that this is a moment—if not exactly a formal rite—of passage and that the balance of our family life is in the course of being rearranged.