One of the consequences of L’s illness is that she and K are now in different school years. This is a new experience for them – one which enables them to have their own milestones rather than shared ones. L has always been naturally competitive and I know it’s hard for her to see K a year ahead, getting AS results and going through her university application process. It’s good natured though, as an exchange of tweets shows:-
L:”My sister is at an Oxford Open Day today and all I’m doing is choosing which Ben and Jerry’s flavour to have”
K: “I think we know who the real winner is here”
K has to produce the personal statement and as an Oxford applicant, sit the History Aptitude Test. Or Hat, as it’s not so affectionately known in our house for a while. And then after days of sighing and endless email checking, an interview date arrives. Or dates to be more precise. K has to go to Oxford for three days, staying in a college being interviewed by the subject department, possibly more than one college and, oh yes, mixing with other applicants.
Ah, mixing. Not so long ago, K had to ask me how to phrase a text to someone. She still struggles with eating in the school canteen. “Will you go with her?” I am asked by some people. No, because I’m not invited. And even if mothers were invited, K would refuse. Not only because that would be weird, but because in the last few months a new K has emerged. Actually, not a new K, but the one who was there all along, because from somewhere she has found the courage to be herself. The clever, funny, opinionated person we always saw is now being seen by others. At parents evening I am told what a character my daughter is – and I smile and say I always knew this, but I am glad that now they know it too.
So, this morning, she gets on the train to Oxford, at half past seven. She allows me a public hug, another new departure and she sets off on her journey. I watched her through the window as her train got ready to leave. Standing on the cold morning platform I hear a shrill whistle blow loudly and I am reminded of that moment in Titanic when you know it’s going to be ok. And it will be ok for K too. She reads her book and doesn’t look up to wave. Instead I get a text in the minute after the train has gone. “I’ll be fine” it says. “I know” I reply.
This hasn’t been an easy couple of years for anyone. But in the Christmas lights of the cafe where I eat breakfast, I think of the moment two years ago when she spoke in the Abbey at her school Christmas Concert. Amplified across the beautiful church I heard my daughter find her voice and thought how lovely she sounded. A voice which has become louder and stronger and most of all braver. Good luck K. I’m always proud of you. But today, I’m pleased that the world of Oxford gets to see how awesome you are.