We took our friend Richard to the airport.
We’ve been neighbours for a year and a half; we’ve shared a rental car for a year. We would walk into each other’s houses after yelling a token “knock knock!” would see each other almost daily on the water, surfing, and would get together for drinks and meals several times a week.
We’ve shared Christmas dinner and birthday and wedding celebrations. We’ve gone through volcanic ash, power outages, a hurricane, lockdown, line-ups at Polyclinics to get our vaccinations, work ups and downs, covid quarantines and the normal adjustments to Barbados island life.
We’ve dropped off and picked up each other many times before, but this time there is no return date. Richard is going back to sell his house, clear out a lot of his possessions and see what the situation is with his father.
We have one last meal together at Pug’s Bar, across the highway from the airport. The chicken is Bajan style, with stuffing tucked under the skin before it’s fried. The food is delicious, the Banks beer icy cold, and the service local rum shop style— slow and chaotic. We’ve been here enough it doesn’t faze us.
“I’ll be back,” Richard says.
That’s what Simone said. And Ada. And Sarah. And Ruth and Acer, as they left with their children and dogs to take care of a UK residency issue. None of them have come back. Life got in the way.
Elana came back once, for a short stay and some kite surfing between jobs, and Ada may be here later this month, with her new baby, for a visit.
For our friends and Welcome Stamp Visa acquaintances, there are many reasons for not returning.
For some this was just a Covid-prompted interlude, and now they have returned to their normal life. For some circumstances have changed, with family, or health, or employment.
For others, Barbados opened their eyes to possibilities. Andrew and Cluney are looking into Spain and will go this summer to check out schools for their boys. Kaity and François were here for two months recently but had spent several more in Costa Rica last fall. I saw Jason teaching his toddler Jasper to surf here at Freight’s Bay in May, but they will be spending more time now in Bali, part of a group building a vacation rental building. Richard has been musing about the cost of living for an expat in the Philippines.
As we leave the airport, Scott says, quietly, “It’s the end of an era.”
I recognize this feeling. It’s the same bittersweet knowledge— that things will never be the same— that makes teenage girls cry through their perfect make-up at their high school graduations. It’s the transition to a different life after university. It’s what I felt every summer after my geology field jobs, where, after 4 months of working and living in each other’s pockets, sharing a dinner table, a tent, our jokes and our dreams, we would pack up our duffel bags and disperse back across the country.
It’s sitting in the hot tub under the clear stars of the northern BC sky, with wine and my best friend, our children asleep, and having her tell me that her pilot husband had been hired by an airline in Hong Kong. It was, three years later, telling my next best friend that my husband had taken a job down south and we were moving to be closer to Children’s Hospital.
It’s leaving the school I’d taught at for 15 years. It’s clearing out the house I had lived in for 18 years, and leaving town. It’s knowing that no matter how you swear you will keep in touch, that often after a few visits you will realize that they have moved on, with new colleagues, neighbours and friends. And so have you.
We forget that “this too shall pass” refers to the good times, as well as the bad.
That is why I savour the sweetness of today; knowing that there is a price to opening your heart, and one that I still choose to pay.