Today standing at the train station in Montreal I watched a son, probably around the same age as me, saying goodbye to his mum who was boarding the train to Toronto. I watched his eyes fill with tears as he struggled to keep his composure, and I watched the tears pour down her face and I found myself welling up. I don’t know where her final destination was, whether it’s Toronto or further afield and I don’t know when they’ll next see each other or how long it’s been since they last did but I wanted to give them both a hug.
At the first stop on the train I watched a man waiting on the platform with an unmistakeable look of excitement and anticipation on his face as the train approached. I watched his eyes search my carriage on the train with an urgency, and then when he didn’t find the familiar face he was looking for, his eyes move frantically to the next carriage and then suddenly I saw the look of overwhelming happiness as he found who he was looking for and began to run down the platform to greet them. I didn’t see who it was that he greeted, whether it was a partner, a child, a parent or an old friend but I knew that look and again I felt myself well up.
You see I now fully understand the magnitude of feelings that both of these situations I witnessed today involve. In just a few hours I will be that person on the platform. I am travelling to Toronto to meet my Mum and Dad who are flying in later today from Scotland and I will be at the station to meet their train from the airport. It’s been 8 months since I last saw them in person and the way I feel at the prospect of their arrival today is hard to put into words. I am persistently late for everything in my life, a terrible habit I know, but I was an hour early for my train this morning, willing my journey to be over and to be able to reach them at the other end as soon as possible. The sheer excitement of knowing that in just a few hours I will be reunited with them meant I barely slept a wink last night. With the joy of their arrival though also comes the niggling awareness that in just a short two weeks time I will then be in the same situation as that boy I watched well up this morning as he struggled to get his words out. (I have nowhere near his composure though so I will be a wailing, bubbling mess of tears.) The vastness of the emotions that can be felt in such a short space of time is an emotional rollercoaster and something that when my parents visited last year I was vastly unprepared for.
Waiting to collect them at Montreal airport last summer I kept bursting into tears, happy tears, though two weeks later those same tears rolling down my face were grief stricken, I felt actual physical horror that I would have to wait months to see them again. Today I am more prepared, not that I expect I will manage either situation any better, I fully expect there will be tears at both ends, but at least now I can anticipate the strength of the emotions I will feel.
Prior to moving to Canada I would never have understood that I could feel so strongly watching both of these interactions today. I am sure I would have felt for the mum saying bye to her son and that witnessing the man running down the platform would have made me smile but I would never have understood that gut wrenching feeling at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum that both of these people had. Both of these reactions are because of love. There is a line in the British film ‘Love Actually’ that I have always loved, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.” Have you ever stopped and looked at the faces of the people waiting there? Not necessarily Heathrow but any airport. Granted there will be a few tired faces of dutiful friends and family members just picking holidaymakers up but look closer. In amongst them you will also find those who have the happy tears in their eyes, the look of eager anticipation at their upcoming reunion with someone they love. I bet watching them will make you smile.
The Charles Dickens quote that I have used as the image for this article sums up how I feel about this perfectly “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again” as, as horrific as it was saying goodbye to my parents at Christmas (I sobbed the whole way through check in, airport security and right until we were at the gate ready to board the plane back to Montreal) and as real a physical pain that that is, there is no feeling on earth like the one I have just now, waiting to see them and knowing that in under 5 hours I will be back with them, hugging them, chattering at 100 miles per hour, and beaming from ear to ear. Little kids waiting on Christmas Eve for Santa coming have got nothing on how I feel right now.