“My head is poorly”, toddler complains as he pulls his T-shirt right up and starts to rub his tummy.
I know how he feels.
I had an ache recently too, although I wasn’t exactly sure where it was or what it was. But I think if I’d trudged off to our local GP and told him all my problems – mountains of dirty washing, a dusty, musty, cobweb-filled house, an inbox full of unopened e-mails and a pile of unpaid bills – he’d probably have ushered me gently out of the door telling me it was just another case of post-holiday blues.
Normally when we’re lucky enough to go away on a holiday I’m more grown up about the whole thing. I prepare myself for the fact that coming home will probably feel a bit like those difficult, dreary post-Christmas days when you feel flat, fed up and fearful that you’ll never have anything to look forward to ever again.
But this year I was so excited about our plans – and taking middle son and toddler on an aeroplane for the very first time – that I totally forgot to remind myself about that horrible WHAM, SLAM, back to reality bit when it all comes to an end.
For me the ‘blues’ bit started on the last day of our holiday, when we had to drag ourselves away from the gorgeous weather and beautiful swimming pool to pack our suitcases. After two weeks of freedom, of having to be nowhere at any particular time, of being able to do whatever we pleased whenever we wanted – within the constraints of family life of course – the prospect of boring old normality started to loom heavily.
That sinking feeling got gradually worse as we journeyed home, getting stuck in a mammoth traffic jam on the way to the airport, and finally arrived, exhausted, at our front door in the pouring rain, only to find we couldn’t open it because of the amount of junk mail sitting on our doormat.
As I wandered around, opening all the windows to get rid of that odd smell which comes with a house that hasn’t been lived in for a week or two, I was reminded little by little of all those annoying little jobs that I found so easy to put off earlier in the summer, telling myself I’d do them ‘when we got back from holiday’.
Daughter’s new school uniform was sitting on the dining room table, all needing to be labelled. Forms for bus passes and various out-of-school activities were waiting to be filled in and sent off. Party invites needed to be responded to. Worst thing was looking at the calendar and having to go past the ‘ON HOLIDAY!’ part, written in big, red, excited scribble, only to be greeted with a series of children’s appointments for the dentist, orthodontist and opticians before the start of school.
Whilst I struggled silently with this feeling of malaise, the children didn’t seem to be suffering one bit. Within two minutes of being at home, they were already onto the next thing as if they’d never been away.
“What are we having for tea?” asked middle son cheerfully, as I opened the fridge to be greeted by a slab of mouldy cheddar cheese, some grim-looking olives and a few out-of-date yoghurt pots.
“Can I have some friends round tomorrow?” asked teenager, once he’d established that his fish were still alive thanks to the valiant efforts of nanny and grandad.
Only toddler had slight misgivings. “Can we go back on holiday now?”, he asked hopefully, as he watched husband and I open up the heavy suitcases – filled with ‘precious’ rocks and stones collected during our time away.
To be honest this post-holiday blues didn’t last much longer than my toddler’s tummy ache – or was it a headache? Once I’d done the washing, filled the fridge and cupboards with food, ticked a few things off my long ‘to do’ list, and had a lovely, long chat with an old friend – and shown her all our holiday photographs, of course – I was soon feeling back to normal.
And after a couple of nights in our comfortable bed with proper pillows and no church bells waking us up at six o’clock every morning, I could almost bring myself to say that there really is no place like home…