‘I want to go home’
Five words in the margin of a childhood book with a date next to them, 12/10/83. As I read it for the first time in thirty years, a wave of sadness washes over me, dragging me off my feet and battering me in its swell.
Sadness for my eleven year old self, standing alone in the white washed stairwell, grey autumn light streaming through the skylight, tears streaming down my face. The the enormity of what boarding school really means hits me for the first time. I’m three weeks into my first term, and I’ve just had my first weekend at home: Saturday lunch until Sunday tea. Now it’s Monday morning and it’ll be another three weeks until I go home again. I allow myself to acknowledge what I’d previously buried for fear of being overwhelmed, of unravelling: I’m homesick. I miss home. I feel like a weight is pressing down on my heart, so heavy that I can hardly breathe. Three weeks might as well be three months, or three years. I don’t know how I’m going to bear the sadness.
So I cry. And once I start, I can’t stop. I weep silently through the days. Lying in bed, walking down corridors, on the lacrosse pitch, during assembly. I know it’s not the done thing, I’ve read Enid Blyton, but I don’t care. I’m too sad to care. My heart aches for home.
Eventually, over the weeks and months, I learn to cope. Always a bookworm, I rely ever more on their ability to transport me somewhere else. I make friends. I play and win at cards. I enjoy the work. I watch Dynasty. My parents ask me if I want to leave, go to a day school instead, but I say no.
In many ways I’m very lucky. We had woods and fields to play in, fiercely close friendships, hours to muck about and share secrets. I learnt independence, how to wash my own underwear, be responsible, live in a community. I stayed for seven years and have many happy memories and some mixed exam results. But I never really stopped missing home.