A year ago today, we flew back to the UK.
A whole year.
To the day.
The night before we boarded that flight, with our suitcases packed and lined up by the back door, we thought we’d go for a late afternoon swim to say goodbye to the desert for a while.
The heat was nearly suffocating that afternoon – but as you jumped into the pool, with fiery-red dragonflies dancing around your heads as you bobbed in and out of the water, I remember thinking “wow, you are such lucky, lucky children!”
And you were.
You really were.
The next morning, as our flight soared into the dawn sky, we didn’t know we were saying goodbye forever. We watched the familiar skyscrapers jutting out of the sandy vista from our plane window – impressive at first, glinting in the morning sunlight, but soon shrinking to nothing more than a city made from LEGO bricks as we drifted further and further away.
We had a brilliant summer together – but just before we were due to fly back, doubts crept into our mind. A calculator, a spreadsheet, frantic googling, tired eyes, stressed brows – and a decision.
We were going to stay.
That first bit was hard for me. So hard. Your Daddy wasn’t with us yet – and we didn’t have a home of our own. I missed my friends, my routine, my safety net. Everything was raw. Everything made me cry. I thought we’d made a mistake more times than I dared to count. I wanted to go back to those familiar LEGO bricks. I wanted normality. I wanted the life we had built together.
I just wanted to go home.
But whilst I was looking back, you stepped forward with confidence. Right from the first day at your new school, when your steely-faced bravery sucker-punched me in the stomach with a heady mix of fierce pride and crushing guilt.
You mentioned Dubai a lot at first. Your friends. Your nanny. Your teachers. Your school. Your nursery. Your favourite places to go. You packed your little rucksacks with things you wanted to take on the plane when we flew back to visit – and seeing you do that was torture, as Daddy and I had already decided we wouldn’t be heading back any time soon to help you (and me) settle into our new lives in the UK. Every time he flew back to his job in the desert, my heart stabbed with pure jealousy. I wanted to go back too. But deep down, I knew I had to close that door to be able to open the one I was standing in front.
Goodbye had to be goodbye.
Our container arrived back from Dubai in December – and we moved into our new home. As we unpacked those boxes and you rediscovered your toys, I watched your faces light up with amazement. The sudden realisation that you were getting back those belongings, those things that had long drifted from your minds was both amazing and heart-breaking to witness.
It was a long winter – and it took all of us a while to get used to it. I hated the long, dark days. I hated the rain. But you three embraced it.
Before long, I was so used to seeing you in warm coats and wooly hats, with red noses and tears streaming from the cold, that I forgot what you looked like in your swimming shorts, with sunlight glinting on your skin. You didn’t mind getting mud on your hands, or getting soaked in rain, or feeling the wind whip around your faces in temperatures dipping freezing. You morphed into UK children, so happy and settled, so rarely mentioning that old life in the desert that I was sometimes left wondering if it had happened at all.
And I realised – slowly, but certainly.
I had to embrace it too.
And now we are here.
The first anniversary of our return to the UK.
And in the perfect completion of the circle, you broke up from school for summer. Shouting to your friends in the carpark to say goodbye. Grubby knees, worn elbows, and shoes scuffed at the toes. Smiling wide smiles at the thought of weeks stretched ahead, together at home.
We jumped in the car and drove to the coast to celebrate – and as we pulled up, your grandparents appeared and your eyes sparkled with delight. You strolled away with them, hand-in-hand, shrieking with excitement, in harmony with the seagulls circling above our heads.
Life is different, yes.
It couldn’t be more different.
But every step you have taken has swelled my heart with pride.
And as I watched you walking down that harbour, with the sun starting to dip on the horizon and a warm breeze ruffling your hair, I thought to myself: “Wow, you are such lucky, lucky children”.
And you really, really are.
Love from Mummy x