‘And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation’ Khalil Gibran.
It was the summer of 2010. Before Kate and Wills got married. Before One Direction and when I thought I’d never find a guy as great as my husband. It was the summer we separated.
The school holidays yawned ahead of us like an eternity. Weeks of telling Arthur, who was now 6 nearly 7, to turn off electricals and go outside and kick a ball about. Then remembering that we live on a relatively busy London street and have a postage stamp sized garden, and its not the 1950s. As Peter was to be sole carer of the children over the summer while I went clipping off to work each morning in inappropriate footwear, he began to hatch a plan.
“What do you think about me taking Arthur to France for the whole summer and you staying here with Sebastian?” he mooted one morning over breakfast. Six whole weeks apart? The longest we would have been apart in over ten years. I wasn’t sure. I’d miss him. I’d miss Arthur. I’d be looking after Sebastian ON MY OWN (you may not have met him, but let me tell you he makes the kid in Home Alone look under-resourceful). Id have no one to work the sky plus if it broke! And most of all, isn’t it weird to think its OK to spend that long apart. Does it mean our relationship is somehow flawed if we are able to live comfortably with only Skype to communicate. We’d been married for 11 years at this point and while there were elements of resigned comfort in our relationship – we get quite excited when there is a BRAND NEW episode of Midsommer Murders – I like to think we are also more in love now than when we met drunkenly at a party fifteen years earlier. (He has no recollection of our meeting – in fact the only thing he claims to remember about said party is that a transvestite porn star was there – he’s right but it was LA in the 90s, there was a transvestite porn star at most parties.)
But it made sense. We had all that space in France, a wood, fields and about ten broken bikes leaning up against one another in a barn. In London, we had a Victorian terrace with an urban decked area complete with olive tree and seating area that we had done pre-kids.
And so it was agreed. Seb and I would stay home with Yvonne our amazing neighbour agreeing to look after him until I got home from work in the evenings. Peter and Arthur would spend one feral summer, wearing the same pants for days, existing on bread with Nutella and making plans for an enormous treehouse they would one day build in the forest.
Seb was really too young to care where Arthur and daddy had gone, and besides I took him to shoreditch most weekends with uncle Richard and he got sole attention, ice cream and swimming in a rooftop pool, what’s not to love? Our Shoreditch summer was really so enjoyable that we forgot to miss our nuclear family. Our new alternative, child free family who drink cocktails at midday, spend hours shopping for fresh flowers and hang out in private members bars DID have a certain allure….and besides, my boys overseas were happy. Eating their body weight and gaining around 6lbs each, their skin the colour of stewed tea (could have been tan, could have been lack of hygiene) and their smiley faces over Skype telling me of trips to Bricot Depot and the time Arthur found a salt n vinegar crisp the size of a saucer!
But on the day we landed at Pau airport, reunited for a two week holiday, the sight of their (dirty) faces through passport control made me realise the best thing about being separated for the summer. The realisation that you can’t wait to be reunited.