Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

No Longer Next of Kin

October 5th, 2020

When I dropped Kate off at Georgetown ten years ago, I was prepared. My first chick to fly the coop was not going to send me in a downward spiral. No siree. In the months leading up to the big goodbye, I would announce at Sunday night dinner, that in xxx number of months and weeks, Kate, my no-longer-a-baby, would be gone.

Kate with my mother below.

Sayonara. It was good knowing her. I like to mourn early, get it over with. A good offense is the best defence.

Julia, soon, it will just be the two of us, I’d say at the dinner table

Can I have her bed?

No, I am not dead Julia, Kate would retort. I’ll be home for Thanksgiving.

Thomas, at boarding school, was spared these weekly gloomfests.

What I wasn’t prepared for – not at all – is the emotional turmoil I experienced when Kate got engaged. Yes, on the one hand I was thrilled, I love Harry, her fiancé, and they are the cutest couple,

but on the other, I was feeling some dark, selfish thoughts:

Does that mean you’re leaving our family? Do you like Harry better than me? Is he now your number one?

And then in a double punch to the gut, the happy newlyweds

announced over this past summer that they would be moving. And I don’t mean moving downtown. I mean moving, moving. Across an ocean to London- where I used to live until I met Stretch and thought,

Ooh, a NYC boyfriend, how perfect, I can be closer to my kids.” Man plans, God laughs.

Last week, I helped Kate drag several duffel bags out to the car. First stop JFK, next stop LHR.

Later, I call my friend Jessica who has suffered a similar fate. Her daughter Annabella not only got married, but also lives in another country. Annabella lives in NYC, Jessica London.

It’s the pits, agrees my old friend. But the most important thing is that they’re happy.

I nod, halfheartedly.

Plus, we did it to our mothers.

OMG, I hadn’t thought of that.

Thirty odd years ago, both Jessica and I left the States, following our husbands to London. It never occurred to me then that the move would upset my parents.

I think when you’re younger, when it comes to your parents you’re very selfish, explains Jessica. I take a lot of crap from my kids, but I don’t mind because they’re going to take crap from their kids.

Good point, I say, cheering a little.

I remember when Annabella sprained her ankle, Jessica adds. The medical form asked for her next of kin. She started to write my name and then said, ‘Oh, I guess I should be writing my husband’s now. It was a shift.’

A shift? I think. Try tsunami.

Not feeling cheery anymore. I realise that it’s only a matter of time before my name disappears from all next of kin forms. Thomas and Julia, both in their twenties, could abandon me at any moment.

Stretch, am I your next of kin? I ask as soon as he walks through the door that night

He pauses.

Don’t tell me I’m not!

Well no, it’s just don’t you mean who is my emergency contact?

Fine. Am I your emergency contact?


Good, at least somebody still loves me.

Fast forward to this past weekend. Stretch and I have just moved house in Greenwich.  He has important work calls. So, I do the breakfast dishes, unpack all our belongings, take out the garbage…  Stretch is in his own work world – not helping. When he gets off the phone in the bedroom, I ask:

Couldn’t you at least have made the bed, while on the phone? Can’t you multitask, at all?

No, I can’t, he replied.

And that’s when the lightbulb went off. Not only can Stretch not multi-task, no man can, including my wonderful new son-in-law.

Kate and I will always have that bond that all women have, we are the stronger sex. I may not be her top-dog, but I will always be her top-bitch.


October, 2020