I stood at the entrance to an old manor house in the English countryside, my older brother stood beside me. The Elizabethan building which we stood in front of had been converted into a boarding school many years before.
We looked out from the front door together as our parents got into our family car. We waved goodbye as they drove away up the driveway and disappeared into the distance.
“What time will they be back?” I asked, turning to my brother and looking up at him.
“They aren’t coming back”, said the school Headmaster as he approached us from behind through the open front door. “School term ends in 12 weeks; you will see your parents again then. Now, inside with you both and head into the common room and join the other new students”
My brother and I were ushered in through the main entrance of the school, along a corridor and into a large hall filled with maybe 30 other students. There began my first terrifying day at boarding school.
I was 5 years old and hadn’t realised when waving goodbye to my parents that I wouldn’t see them again for what might as well have been an eternity. As the realisation of my situation became clear to me, and as I looked across the silent room at the other new boys and girls, tears welled to my eyes, and escaped, dripping down my cheeks.
I felt alone, abandoned, terrified. I looked to my brother for support as we were separated into year groups and sent our separate ways. He didn’t look back at me, I assumed too preoccupied with his own emotions to notice mine.
To this day, I wish I had known the goodbye at that door was so final. If I had, I would have hugged both my parents, told them how much I was going to miss them, and parted having let them know how much I loved them. My half-hearted wave as they drove away seemed so inadequate at that moment.
Later I was to learn they had been told not to make a “fuss” as “the school didn’t want any tears”
So cruel I thought in later years, and to this day significant goodbyes are a real struggle.