An otherwise ordinary Tuesday, and Mr M and I and the family, and associated girl and boy friends, gather for a farewell meal for our eldest child who is moving far away. He hasn't lived at home for a year now, but he has been nearby. We eat outside in the evening sun, and take pictures of ourselves on the lawn.
I remember nursing my boy in just that spot, under the shade of next door's apple tree, on a blanket I had spread on the grass. It would have been this time of year too, many years ago when he was just weeks old. He would have been feeling the sun on his little body for one of the first times and I remember him watching the leaves fluttering above him, and beyond them the blue sky. Now he's ready to spread his wings and fly away into that blue sky.
My eyes didn't cry. It was important to make this an upbeat time, and it wasn't a chore to do so. It was like the sailing of a great ship; the weather fine, the bunting flapping, the well-wishers in fine spirit. But as we laughed and ate in the garden where they had all played as tiny ones, I felt that loosening inside, that sickening ache as fibres twist and break and big warm drops of glistening red life start to fall. The living wall of his original home was breaking down as he left me, like it did the first time. The ink of my soul starts to fall like rain. Or tears. Fare thee well and have a good life my beautiful son.
I'm always relieved when it begins, it's comforting to see my red friend and break the spell. Next day my hair was curly and my clothes were right. Women know this feeling. You're effortlessly, unconsciously at your colourful, bold, coordinated best after days of pale disordered tension. The hands of the clock click round imperceptibly, and in a record book somewhere, if there is such a place, a page turns, my period has begun and my first baby has moved out.