Last week, my son left for his very first away-from-home (a.k.a, camping) trip with the school at a place called Hindleap Warren.  It was about 4 nights, and we had a lot to prepare for.  Because they were doing all sorts of activities that might involve water, mud and the like, I had spent the few weeks preceding the trip slowly accumulating the right clothes for him, including waterproof jacket and trousers.  As the good mother, I packed extra singlets with strict instructions that he wear one every day.  This was, afterall, England and it’s been very cold the last few mornings.

If there was a test for mothers doing the right things for packing, I might have gotten a gold star. I packed each day’s clothes in a plastic bag. Day 1 – Jumper, T-shirt, singlet, underwear, fleece trousers, socks.  Day 2 – ditto.  etc.  Stamped self-addressed envelopes for each day at camp. Note book to log daily activities. Extra jackets, PJs, casual clothes.  Boots, walking shoes. Towels, toiletries bag.  We definitely needed the big suitcase.

The big day arrives and it’s quite cute to see all the children walking to school with their big bags.  All looked very excited and I know my son was.  We all gathered in the school hall and soon their names were called.  We were with the first batch.  I was walking with a mom who was then commenting on why they had bunched these kids together, and that at least a few of them were naughty kids etc.  Not sure, but maybe her son and my son didn’t hang out, so she wasn’t too happy with the mix of the group.  In the end, she worked out that it was simply alphabetical.  I think that was a relief to her. I think she was concerned that her son would not be in the right group. I wasn’t really offended though I was wondering for half a second whether I should be.

I’m not friends with (nor necessarily friendly with) all the parents at the school, but I’ve never been the PTA sort.  I suppose it’s because we came in the latter half of Year 5, and all parents had spent the previous 5 years getting to know each other. Some parents are friendly, and some are sweetly friendly – nice to your face but not interested to talk to you. Some talk to you when no one else is there, and then don’t talk to you when a better offer comes along. Some are masters at ignoring you even when you’ve met before.  So different from our last school in Australia, so different from Australians. Australians are really so much friendlier. Even if people don’t know your names, they’ll give you a quick smile of recognition as they move about their day.

After the bags were loaded, big hugs were given and they boarded the bus.  The parents hung around on the pavement waiting for the other children.  Occasionally, I see him at the window of the bus and we wave frantically and sign for each other to write letters.  After about half an hour, all children were on board and the bus pulls out with children waving eagerly from within. Parents wave back also, some with tears in their eyes.  I did not cry, though I felt a bit nostalgic for baby days gone past.  It will be strange to have a quiet household for a few days.