As this post appears, I am actually back in Potato Point. My chronology is warped by packing up my Warsaw home and settling into my Australian one. There’ll be two more posts here before I relocate in cyberspace as well.
When our Australian visitors leave, it’s time to contemplate packing up the apartment. It’s also that time after a full-on few weeks when germs seize their opportunity, and I am knocked over by yet another northern hemisphere cold. So much for a lovely two weeks of twins.
When I stop succumbing to paroxysms of coughing, I’m ready to begin preparations for leaving in earnest.
I pre-begin the process during the insanely long wait at the airport to farewell my son. Getting there far too early, wherever there might be, is a family failing. I drop into the Emirates office and ask how many bags I can fill with my 30kg baggage allowance. The answer is surprisingly jocular: “As many as you like. Ten with three kilos in each if that’s what you want to do.”
I begin packing summer clothes. As I roll each item tightly, I remember summer warmth, fountains, evenings in the park, Chopin on Sunday afternoons, and the rich green of Warsaw’s parkland. My middle-sized bag is soon full to capacity, and I start to collect winter clothes. I decide to dispose of my down jacket, only worn a few times, and incapable of zipping up around my girth. That reduces the volume satisfactorily. But then I remember stuff I’ve bought here: two bulky sweat shirts, a very bulky knitted jumper, joggers, a pair of snow boots, a dressing gown and a rain jacket. The down jacket definitely has to go. My third and smallest suitcase is already a jumble of books and papers.
That’s enough for one day.
Today it’s a harder job – sorting out all the stuff created with Maja and Jaś, and all the raw materials still remaining for such creations. We each buzz around in our seperate domains, filling garbage bags, but also reserving judgement. Finally J says “I think we have very different chucking away values” and suggests that we work on each other’s piles. That doesn’t come to anything. I’m hanging on to a plaster teddy bear magnet with googly eyes and glitter and a broken leg that was my gift from grandparents day; he to the recovered cardboard from the Christmas tree.
I audition our fifth suitcase and discover that the smallest, book-laden bag fits in it and still leaves room for boots, shoes and assorted soft garments.
The weather reflects my ambivalence about leaving. At 8.30 it snows, heavily enough to leave a layer of white along the still-bare black branches outside the window: the flakes are large and wind-driven, angling their way past the apartment to settle gracefully on car roofs and footpaths. By 9.30 the sun is shining, challenging the whiteness with a blue sky, although a layer of grey clouds still glowers above the rooftops.
Today is the day for categorising and organising. The special bags for Maja and Jaś are filling up with their possessions from our place, and odds and ends that we didn’t get round to using. Other bags have bags within them: stick-on stuff; printing stuff; half used colouring books; packs of cards; a jigsaw puzzle; odd torches; magnifying glasses.
We talk to our daughter about transferring paraphernalia to her place, knowing that she’s space-poor and ruthless. She has strategies for reducing the number of books: cousins, preschool and work will diminish the pile. Although she is far taller and slimmer than me, she wants my down jacket. But I have to chuck all the tubs of playdoh.
J is feeling edgy, wanting to go to the airport now to change his ticket for a flight today. I bribe him with the remains of my curative quince nalewka, and he goes for a walk in the snow instead.
I close the door to my bedroom where packing and cleaning is well under way and and tell the twins on their last visit “We need to say out of there.” They say plaintively “But that’s where we used to play little cockatoos.” So of course I lift the ban, and Little Cockatoo and Mr Kookaburra set up shop, selling pillows this time.
Only a few days now. Packing up a year takes a lot of time, and some heartbreak. I hear stomping and crunching in the living room as J destroys box towns, volcanos, bridges and rivers, an intricate paper road system, and a lighthouse island, all co-creations with Jaś and Maja and the basis for many ongoing games.
The family gathers for a farewell lunch at Rejeneracja: catering for 12 on two hot plates is beyond me. The four cousins play happily and ignore the grown ups, who negotiate the quagmires of unshared language for the last time on this visit. The weather is perfect and there is some resistance to being inside. After we’ve eaten we settle on benches while the cousins tear round on their bikes and R goes home to prepare dessert.
I collect the basket of flowers I’ve ordered to say thank you to the preschool for a year of coping with foreigners and for making our role easy. It is indecently huge: I have to struggle to carry it half a block, and I leave a trail of petals on the stairs.
It’s here. The last day we take Maja and Jaś to preschool. As they scoot along on their bikes, J and I walk on either side of the monster basket. Other walkers in the park eye off this procession, either amused or bemused. My embarrassment at floral excessiveness fades when Pani Teacher is delighted and gives us both a big hug.
We wake early, and soon realise that last minute things are going to swallow up every scrap of time till the taxi arrives at 10. Finally we person-handle our four suitcases downstairs, and drop the keys in the letterbox. We are on our way back to Australia.