It strikes me that the English language is somewhat bereft of lovely ways to bid farewell for a time. We say “goodbye” or “farewell”. Or maybe even, if we like Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, we say “tata for now” or TTFN.
I like the Spanish expression for bidding farewell. Vaya con Dios. Go with God. (I also like hasta luego--so long. True, we do say “so long” in English.)
As you might expect, I have had quite a few occasions to say "farewell for a time" in my life. I went off to boarding school at age 5 turning 6, and I suspect I didn’t really understand that, at the end of the day my parents took me to school, they would go home. I was dreadfully homesick, and used up all my stationery in short order writing letters home.
When my parents and we children returned to the U.S., I said goodbye to friends in Africa. Then when my parents along with my brother and sister returned to Africa, while I stayed here, I said goodbye to them once more. My mother decided it would be better if I stayed in Pennsylvania while they traveled to New York City to sail on their return journey. We would not see each for five years, and I think my mother thought tearful goodbyes would be too difficult.
When my children headed off to college, the goodbyes weren’t quite so traumatic. Our son headed off, and that event was actually quite easy. However, when he headed off to graduate school, moving out of our house and into his own apartment, that goodbye was much harder. I held back tears, and felt my throat tighten up. Then I put all that emotion to good work while I cleaned out his bedroom and got it ready for our daughter.
When our daughter headed off to college the proverbial nest was empty. After 6 weeks at the college she first attended, she knew it wasn’t the right place for her. So, when we went to visit her, she proposed that she finish the semester then head to London for 6 months. GULP. But we agreed—you have to let your children grow and go!
After the six months, she returned, transferred to a university that suited her wonderfully, and stayed put for a bit. She did spend a semester abroad, heading to Glasgow, Scotland this time. And, of course, she spent several months in Ghana last year.
Now she and her fiancé have left for London. She will be attending graduate school there while he continues with the bank he has been working for, albeit transferring to the bank’s London headquarters.
Another goodbye. We didn’t go to the airport, but we chatted by phone before they left. I reflect on how keeping in touch has changed. When my parents were in Africa, we sent airmail letters back and forth. A very slow asynchronous means of communicating. I had all of one phone call with my parents in those five years—for three minutes at the cost of $20. Now with email and IM chat messages, communication is real time. Satellites bounce cell phone calls between continents. Keeping in touch has shrunk the globe. But even with instantaneous communication, goodbyes are still hard!
So, vaya con Dios, mi hija.
Just received email confirmation that they have arrived safely in London!