**Warning: excessive sentimentality and superlatives.
By Thursday morning our house was all cleared out so we were obligation free. We had given the kids the choice about whether they wanted to spend their last day at school or in the city and they chose school. So after breakfast at the hotel (I opted for a full English breakfast one last time) Richard and I dropped them off at school and went into the city.
We had a reservation for afternoon tea at a restaurant called Sketch, which had been recommended by friends and had great reviews on social media sites. Other than that we didn’t have any plans, so we just walked and enjoyed a rare sunny, blue sky day in London.
Richard having a chat with Roosevelt and Churchill…
Our tea spread was phenomenal, and seemed like the quintessential British experience to have before we departed the motherland. The sandwiches, cakes, tea, sparkling beverages, scones were all utterly delicious and we were utterly satisfied. We walked a bit more and then took the train back to pick up the kids from school. It was all quite magical.
Once we were back at the school it didn’t take long for my tears to start flowing. (And they flow again as I type!) From my first moment at Lucas Vale I had felt an overwhelming feeling of friendship, and for two years it never stopped. I always felt like the teachers and staff really cared about me and my children, and it was a feeling that came from consistent thoughtful and friendly gestures.
We picked up Simon first, which was what began the water-works because I felt particularly close to Simon’s teacher. After Mrs. Uddin and I hugged, I looked around and realized we weren’t the only ones crying! It seemed like everyone I said goodbye to was really, genuinely sad that we were leaving. It wasn’t lip service and that realization sunk in deep.
Earlier that day I had written a note to the mother of a little girl in Simon’s class. She didn’t speak English but she and I had seen each other at school drop off, pick up and on the bus every day for two years. We had exchanged smiles and friendly glances, but had never really spoken. She had two other children and her kids and my kids were always friendly to each other on the bus. In my note I just mentioned how I had enjoyed being around them and what lovely kids she had, but that we were moving away and I would miss seeing them. I asked Richard to translate it into Spanish for me and I gave it to her as we picked up our kids together. She looked a little confused at first, but she found me later and had her son translate a message back to me, reciprocating similar feelings. It was incredibly touching and this feeling of love that can exist beyond cultural differences just kept blossoming inside me.
Mrs. Tickner & Ms. Sandra
Mrs. Florida, Ms. Karen, Poli
We picked up the other kids, saying thank-yous and goodbyes to their teachers, all while being hugged and greeted and adored. I seriously felt like a celebrity but I was too emotional to feel awkward or embarrassed.
Mim and her crush, Ralphy who she promised to come back to London for, when she is 18. Heaven help us!
Simon and his adorable little Italian friend Giada. (His pose cracks me up!)
I’m so glad Richard was there for this experience. He was wonderful moral support and also kept track of Amirah and the other kids while I said my goodbyes. I saved the hardest for last, and found my friends Fatiha, Tessa and Samira. My three Muslim sisters, who despite language obstacles, had been my dearest school mom friends. Interestingly, although we had some good laughs about our inability to understand each other, it was these three women who I most felt really understood
me. This is where I lose my ability to articulate quite what their friendship was and what it meant to me. But suffice it to say, it was another tearful goodbye. I won’t post our picture here, per my shy friend’s request, but I’ll keep it in my home forever.
Fortunately I didn’t have to say goodbye to Cindy and Mike at the school. They met up with us and we all walked to Greenwich Park to spend the afternoon before eating dinner at our last favorite place, Goddards. (How did I not take any pictures?!)
Also fortunately, we took the DLR home and Mike and Cindy had to get off before us, so it was a quick goodbye on the train. Mike and Cindy were like our family in London, and even though they had family of their own, they were always welcoming and kind and helpful to us. We miss them so much.
Our beloved Greenwich Park.
We walked back to our hotel, riding a giddy high from all the love and adoration we’d taken in, and heartbroken at the idea of leaving. Of all the kids, I think Cameron was hurting the worst. He had been the most upset about moving to London, but saying goodbye to his teachers and friends at Lucas Vale had been more difficult than he could have imagined and he was feeling pretty raw.
The kids crashed in the hotel beds, while the already completely exhausted parents packed up the last bits of our London life and got much too little sleep for the long travel day ahead.