I'm standing on the beach. Rosa is asleep in my arms, the waves are rushing in and a cool, gusty breeze carries sounds of my family playing nearby. I lift my face to the sun and enjoy. Reuben is dancing around with his spade, his body reflected in the wet sand. Duncan watches over him, his jeans rolled to the knees, and I wonder what he is thinking. Is he wondering how to freeze time too?
I love the beach and it occurs to me that I will miss it terribly - that I will miss a lot of things, terribly. And with that the faces of our furlough come, playing like a movie, moving me gently until the salt in the air, is also in my eyes. I am remembering times of connection - of small talk and deep talk, news of birth and news of death, hugs hello followed too soon by hugs goodbye, trying to get that one photo with everyone and trying to leave each one well.
I can hear Reuben designing an airport in the sand - his imagination evolving with each stroke of the rake and I think of all the new experiences he has had...new foods, launching bottle rockets, watering strawberries, picking cucumbers, feeding a wild bird from his hand, play doh, jigsaws, using a saw (!), soft play, museums, going on the bus, shopping centres, swimming, chips and nuggets, television, going to the zoo, new friends, Octonauts, stickers and family.
It's all coming to an end and suddenly, after eight months, we must go. I push down the sense of panic, sadness, elation and anticipation that are all rushing through me. I close my eyes and the wind blows cold. But then Rosa stirs, Reuben advances bubbling with stories of his creations, wet shorts and sand everywhere and life continues. Loss and hope together - the many faces of furlough, this beach, my daughter in my arms and fresh salt in my eyes.