There is an invisible force that starts to work at about ten to five. The clock has been showing 16.50 for at least the last half hour, during which I’ve sent at least a hundred emails, tidyed my desk, checked the clock, written my next to do list, checked the clock, checked all my letters went out, and checked the clock, but now finally it says 17.00.
I know that I’ve got plenty of time for my train but even so it’s like a shot of adreneline and I whizz round closing email and trackers and cabinets and put away all the other bits of detritus from a work day, and go.
Down the stairs, out the door, along the road, round the corner, down the hill. Not running, not yet, but walking as fast as I possibly can.
Into the station, check the board and my train is on time, but something catches my ear; the station announcer apologising for a late train. Well it might be late for him, and it might be late according to the text that scrolls across the announcement board and possibly according to most of the people on the platform but for me it’s beautifully, wonderfully on time. The train that will get me home a full 15 minutes earlier isn’t here yet and I sprint, pushing every last ounce of energy into getting me up the stairs three at a time, along the bridge, around the people with a giant suitcase and a cello case, down the stairs, juddering to a halt at the back of a mass of people queuing at the train doors.
But even though I know I’m getting home faster than I’d thought I’m still longing the miles away, counting down each and every station.
But finally we get there, and finally I’m in the car and pulling into the drive. And when I open the door of the house there’s a tiny moment where they haven’t quite noticed yet, a family at peace and at play, or sometimes a family in noise and in chaos, but a family that is not yet quite complete.
A head jerks up and sees me standing in the door, and first one and then another shout “Mummy!!!” as they throw themselves into arms or legs or any bit they can get a hold on. And the littlest wails to be picked up and cuddled and held as he realises what has been missing all day. I hug them, kiss them, breathe in the smells of baby, of felt tip pen on fingers and a smidgen of someone’s lunch mushed into their hair.
It’s both the best moment of my day, and in a funny way one of the hardest. Best because finally no one is missing, I don’t have to correct myself when I accidentally refer to myself in the plural, and because the backbone of grit and determination that has held me together all day can stand down, and best because of the armfuls of hugs and the warm smiles from H, and worst because it’s in that moment that I realise just how much I have been missing them. The pleasure I take in my job, the fun and camaraderie in my team, and the extraordinary amount of cake we got through this week, all seem to fade into obscurity in comparison to the perfect joy of being back together, a five again once more.
Until tomorrow, when I’ll be looking forward to five o’clock again.