I know that I’ve made much in this blog about how much I resent E for not just being honest and leaving for good in 2008. However, there is one thing that takes the edge off that pain. There is one thing that would never have happened if he had left – Singapore.
In 2010, we had been given the opportunity to live in Singapore. It wasn’t all plain sailing, and we had a hard time at times (I’m sure I’ll come back to these one day – but, for now, suffice to say that E’s money management was involved), but, oh my goodness, what an experience it was.
At first I wasn’t sure about relocating, but E’s company paid for us to go out there for a few days to see what we thought, and I fell in love with the place pretty much as soon as we stepped off the plane. By the time we got back to England, four days later, laden with presents for the kids, I’d already found them a school and worked out where I wanted to live.
I think we can all recall perfect moments, sparkling little jewels of time when everything seems to stand still and we’re so absolutely and uncomplicatedly happy that, for a moment, the world literally shines. For me one of those moments happened on our first night in Singapore. I couldn’t believe how lucky we were.
E and I had been struggling financially for a few years, but in 2010 everything seemed to come together. We’d cleared most of our debt, I thought E’s affair was behind us (!), we’d started work on our house, the kids were happy in their schools and had lots of friends, and then to make a brilliant year even more perfect, we were offered this amazing opportunity. Everything seemed to be perfect. We found a beautiful condo, with marble floors, a balcony, a gym and a pool, near Orchard Road to live in and the kids all had places in a nearby International School. I just felt blessed and so incredibly lucky. We met people from all over the world. We travelled to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and saw the sort of perfect white-sand, clear-sea beaches that we’d only even seen in photographs. I felt the sun on my skin all year round – even in December (I’ll never get over that one). We all made some lovely friends. It was like living in a dream for a little while. It was just an incredible experience for all of us.
Before I’d found out about E’s most recent affairs, we’d been planning to take the kids back there in 2017. We wanted to visit our friends and favourite places (of course, I now know that E was probably planning on visiting a few other favourite *places* whilst he was there that I was unaware of) and just *be there* again. We’d all been so excited about it, but when E left, and everything changed, the kids and I thought that we probably wouldn’t be able to go after all. However, to his credit (although I suspect as more due to begging by Oldest and Youngest Sons than to any attack of good-conscience), E had given me the money that we’d agreed to put aside and the trip was back on – only this time, without him.
Going back was lovely, but I think it was bittersweet for all of us. The last time we’d been there was in April 2013 – we’d visited E when he was spending a year there on his own (or, not on his own, as he was yseeing O by then) – and it was strange and disorienting being a family of just five. We’d always been a six – when we were there, us being a big family had been a big deal to a lot of the people we met.
We were also there at the beginning of August, which happened to be exactly the time we’d moved there seven years ago and the contrast between how perfectly happy I’d been exactly seven years ago, and where I was in my life, and how I felt, now hit me very, very, hard. Almost everywhere we went I saw ghosts of our past and my memories of my happiness and stupidly misplaced optimism of seven years ago felt mocking and sad.
The evenings also made me feel very isolated. Before, a holiday evening had always meant letting the kids do their thing (or, when they were younger, putting them to bed) whilst E and I chatted over a bottle or two of wine. Now, in the evenings, I was on my own, I had no other adult to talk to or laugh with. The kids were great, but they didn’t want to sit and chat in the same way a partner or a friend would. It was one thing drinking my way through a bottle of wine on my own at home, but it felt very odd doing it alone on holiday (not that this stopped me, obvs). I loved being with my kids, and was usually surrounded by people, but I also felt strangely lonely. I know it sounds self-indulgent and probably a bit selfish, after all this was the holiday of a lifetime, but I cried lots of tears on that Singapore trip.
However, whilst I was struggling with my memories, I was determined to make some fantastic new ones and we had lots of good times too. I realised afresh what lovely company my kids are and I thoroughly enjoyed being part of our new gang of five. I might have cried a lot, but I laughed a lot too. I think those weeks in Singapore further strengthened my bonds with the kids. I think (hope) they had a lovely time too. They saw their friends, they swam every day, they visited all their favourite places and we had a fair few McDonald’s deliveries (I suspect for them that McDelivery was one of the best things about Singapore).
As we headed back to the UK I felt optimistic. I felt we’d put the past behind us and were heading back to a good, albeit unknown, future. This holiday had consolidated us as a gang of five and made being five, not six, normal. I was so proud of my kids and the way they’d dealt with their memories and of how they’d looked after me and each other on the trip. I’d also relaxed for the first time since January. I was so glad we’d gone, and so proud of myself for organising it and doing it all on my own. I was also older, wiser and a little bit sadder than the day in 2010 when I’d come home from my first visit to Singapore, with gifts for the kids and promises for their future.
In the cab home from the airport, as I wondered what the future held for the five of us, I realised that, for the first time, I wasn’t wondering with dread or fear, I was actually looking forward to it.