About Time: The Day I Left My Daughter
Michelle Beckett (Theatre Studies, 1995, Cartmel) remembers her own early experiences at Lancaster having bid farewell to her daughter on campus in September 2014 to begin her time as a 'Fresher'.
Tick Tock. Tempus Fugit. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow.
We all know this, but do we live each day by it? Come on, hands up?
I know I don't. Caught in the maelstrom of washing uniforms, driving kids from A to B, running for trains, popping ideas for work presentations through your head as you do so. Easy to forget time, head down, racing through it.
But sometimes a big pendulum comes and hits you in the face, chiming as loud as Big Ben.
About fifteen minutes ago (so it feels like, but according to records it was September 1992) I landed at Lancaster University as a fresher. I can still see it as a film, smell the cleaning fluid corridors, taste the tears, terrified in my bare room, Bigland D Floor, Cartmel College. Burying into my cuddly panda for comfort. Time to be an adult.
About ten minutes ago (actually July 1996, again - these official records don't seem right?) a baby girl was placed on my chest in the operating theatre, looking puzzled at the outside world with her huge eyes. Perfect fingernails. I can still smell her warm forehead.
Last week, about fifty metres from my old room there in 1992, I tried hard to hold back the same hot salt sting as I moved that baby into her halls in County College, Lancaster University. Much was unchanged on campus, and time, with all its clichés, had warped.
Tick Tock. My past, her future. I felt sick as I held tight and breathed in that same forehead one last time before I left her, holding her teddy with those perfectly painted fingernails. Time to start her journey in life. I thought we had all the time in the world.
Of course I did, we always do.
A gust of wind had caught the pages of this most important book of mine, the one I thought I had forever to read. The pages lifted too quickly, bookmark lost at some point.
Outside, quietly through tears and caught breath, I sing ‘Cartmel Bar, M’Lord’ to the tune of Kum Ba Yah, as I did many times and many years before, in that same spot, before Cartmel moved away, as I did.
Adjusting has been hard since I left her there. Bruises from the thwack of the pendulum, missing breathing in her forehead.
But I've kept busy, spoke to her lots. We didn't have FaceTime and Snapchat and Twitter in the olden days, fifteen minutes ago, in 1992. (She's having a ball, by the way.) I'm incredibly proud of her and I wouldn't change it for the world. Except to wind back now and again. Pause and inhale.
Thanks, Big Ben, for reminding me. I'll share again what we all know already. Clichés are clichés for a reason:
1) Please, please remember that life moves at a million miles an hour. Don't put stuff off - those items on your bucket list, or wait for that magic moment when you'll be happy and life will sort itself out. LIFE IS NOW, the sand is running through the hourglass.
2) Take time out to reflect on moments, big and small. If you don't, they'll whizz past and you won't cherish them. Get the old photos out. Keep making new memories.
3) Sniff the foreheads of the people you love (perhaps get their permission first.)
4) Watch the film 'About Time' with Bill Nighy. Light entertainment, but it says it all.
Ferris Bueller was right. But we all know this. Of course we do.