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mixed emotions

In front of me is a notepad and her camera.
To my side is six screwed up bits of paper.

We shall call them attempts.

Attempts to remind myself what mixed emotions mean.

I hold the pen. I look like I know what I am doing. I write three words.
I’ll miss you.

There are now seven screwed up bits of paper to my side.

Last year as we were packing a little suitcase together for the big-grade-three-camp my daughter asked me a simple question.

Will you miss me Mummy?

Of course, I answered.
Her face crumpled a little as she placed her left gumboot into the case.

It’s funny, I said as we folded the prescribed number of size-eight sweaters into neat rectangles, when you love someone and they are headed off on a grand adventure you have what they call mixed emotions.
She stood, looking up at me while wringing a pair of High School Musical Socks between her fingers.
I feel sad, I continued, that you will be away from me and yet also blissfully happy knowing that you are going to have such an amazing time.
She rolled her socks into a ball and stuffed them into a runner.
There, she said ticking off the last item on the list-of-things-you-must-bring, all done. She smiled.
Then she zipped up the case.

In front of me is another sheet of blank paper.

I can’t quite get the words out of the thicket that is my head, down past elbow, wrist and finger tip and out through the pen onto the page. I’m stuck on I’ll miss you.

I try again. She is only nine years old. She doesn’t require an elaborate message. I’m pretty sure she’d be as happy with a page of red-biro love hearts as with perfectly worded sentiments.

I hold her camera for inspiration.

My plan is to photograph the note.
I know my daughter. As soon as she shoots a few frames the first thing she will do is turn the camera around to marvel at the images she has captured.
She’ll flick past the cheesy shot of her Daddy trying to hold the leaning tower of Pisa aloft with the palm of his hand, and the three shots of Nonna and Nonno smiling over their short black espressos in a cafe on the Piazza dei Miracoli and she will reach the end of her snaps…

and find my message.

If I can actually ever figure out what I should write.

I’ve laid out all her summer clothes on my bed. I am the mixn’match travel Queen. Everything has a purpose. Anything unnecessary is ruthlessly dumped.
She looks at the outfits I have selected… we are negotiating whether to bring pink runners as well as white ones. She decides one pair is enough.
Besides, she says, that leaves more room for souvenirs.
Clever girl.
She smiles as she zips up the case.

I think it’s the amount of time that she will be away that is causing my brain to seize. Over one month. Four and a bit weeks. Nearly five. Exactly thirty three days.

The little white squares of August suddenly take on new meaning.
I shut my calendar.

I unfold my seven attempts and smooth them out in front of me.
I see the same three words written over and over.
I’ll miss you. I’ll miss you. I’ll miss you.
Three words.
Three words.
I stop.

Three words.

I just had the wrong three words.

I write with conviction. I love you. It’s perfect. It’s simple. And it won’t make her cry.
And she will know it is woven, richly, with all of her Mother’s mixed emotions.

I frame the shot, take the pic and throw away the written evidence.

I put the camera, with its secret embedded message into its little protective bag
and I smile.
Not a very big smile. It’s a bit wobbly round the edges.
But a smile nonetheless…

Then I,
very carefully,
zip up the case.

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