The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

The highs and lows of a long distance Hello

Do you remember the opening scenes of ‘Love Actually’? And don’t pretend you haven’t watched the film before. The part where Hugh Grant says whenever he’s feeling gloomy about the state of the world, he thinks about the Arrivals gate of Heathrow airport.


If you, like me, have ever waited with barely contained excitement at the Arrivals gate of any airport then you’ll know exactly what he means. The joy of waiting to greet someone long anticipated is perhaps rivaled only by small people waiting for Christmas Day.


The Arrivals Hall at Singapore Changi airport allows you to catch the earliest glimpse of your long awaited visitors as they emerge from passport control on their way to baggage reclaim. I’ve done this trip so many times in the almost eight years I’ve been away from the UK. Sometimes on my own but increasingly so with #1, 2 and 3 in tow as they get older and feel connected to people they had previously only heard us talk about. After a few visits here and there to put faces to names, they  love the excitement of welcoming them to our home.


Especially when it comes to picking up Grandma and Grandpa from the airport. I don’t think it is possible for children to feel more loved than when they are in the company of their grandparents.  I’ve seen my Mum and my Dad Mr Li transform into completely different people in their company and I couldn’t ask for more love to be bestowed upon these lucky three than what they receive from Mum and Dad In Law.


They are very lucky children and so am I.  For who would argue against there being more people than yourself who love and cherish your children. Who take an interest in what they do, who listen to your favourite anecdotes about them and who never really tell them to wait a moment when they have something important they need to do or tell you.


When Husband and I first made this move to the other side of the globe, we knew it would be hard missing family and friends. Of course it would be. Unless you really couldn’t care less about those you left behind. At the same time, life experiences have been enriched beyond what I could have imagined with this unplanned change. People I’ve met who have become like family. Places I’ve been to I know I never would have had the chance to see otherwise. Experiences of culture and a much bigger world than I had lived in before have all been amazing and life enhancing.


But I still miss family and friends just as much as I did the day I left the UK. Though it also doesn’t feel like I’m not seeing you if you know what I mean. With social media and all sorts of Apps, it’s quite easy to stay in touch. Even my Dad, Mr Li has an App I can send him photos on which has helped us a lot and I can tell just how much it means to him to be able to see how #1, 2 and 3 are growing, it reassures him that I’m doing ok with his grandchildren. It also means he can give out even more sound parenting advice on the spot. Like the time I sent him photos of #1, 2 and 3 running along the boardwalk beside a pond. Immediately my phone started ringing and instantly I knew what the call was going to be about. Are you watching #1, 2 and 3 properly? Why are they running? Do you know they could trip and fall into the water?  Do you know how dangerous that is?


But that is the role of a grandparent. To care and watch out for your children. Which is why no matter how great this time is for us as a family, I will always carry the guilt of not being some place else. That some place else meaning being with family who would dearly love to see more of #1, 2 and 3. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind seeing Husband and I as well but who are we kidding here. Whenever I’ve voiced this out loud, people have kindly said it’s not like you would be able to see each other every weekend like in the olden days when families lived more or less within the same town from each other. That’s true. If we were in the UK, we’d be a good five hours drive away so how often would you really be able to make that trip up north? It’s just the same as spending a good chunk of time together in one go than several weekends throughout the year.


You can tell yourself that but it doesn’t work like that.


Previously, I only had to fight down my own tears and sadness every time I was leaving here or there or you were leaving here. But it seems that I’m not the only one to feel it and that has hit me hard. Doubling the guilt.


With the high of the joy and excitement at the Arrivals gate, there is the equal low of sadness and tears at the Departure gate. I have done this part so many times too now. I don’t find it any easier but I am not very stoical as you know.


Imagine though, when you see the tears and sadness of your own children saying Goodbye at the end of holidays that will never be long enough. On one hand, you’re glad that they love you so much they can’t bear to see you go. On the other, it hurts my heart to see them sad because it feels like I am the cause of it. Cries of ‘why do they have to go?’, ‘I want to go with them’, ‘I hope they miss their plane and have to stay’.  For them to miss someone so much they cry at odd intervals over the next few days until normal routine resumes.


I will never forget what #1 said to me when he was upset the day after Grandma and Grandpa left and I told him to think of all the great things you did together. He answered, ‘but that just makes it worse.’


You see, I also know that feeling well too. The year I was eight years old and had spent three weeks in Hong Kong with my dad Mr Li, Lil Bro and our Por Por plus so many family members I never even knew about. It’s so long ago now but I remember crying hysterically at the airport and not wanting to leave. It seems, I haven’t changed much since then.


You may be thinking, so why not just move back to the UK? Eventually I’m sure we will. But that wouldn’t really be solving everything to be honest, we will always be missing someone somewhere.


At the same time, I also feel that I value much more in all my relationships and I also realise important things too that perhaps I took for granted or as given before. Things like, true friendships really do last through time and over distance. I may not always be in touch but when I do see you it’s like it were yesterday since we last did. I’m pretty sure I can still call upon those same people whenever I need help and the best part is that they still do make me laugh the most.


So as you go on your summer holidays this year and dread coming back through the Arrivals gate, think of it another way because it really is one of the best places to be.








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