A lie in until 8am on a Monday morning. Starts the week off well. The alarm was set but not for work or school but instead a play date with Hannah’s “old friends” from nursery. How ironic that a four year old can have a set of “old friends”. Gone are the days when you were born, played out, went to play-school, middle and high school, brownies or scouts all within walking distance from the family home, where you’re parents and maybe even grandparents had lived for years and that you would live in until you got married. Often a council house and in the 80’s a council turned owned house, standing out with its white plastic windows. The “golden age” of the double glazed salesman. Insulation aside…a set of plastic windows was like a sign on the front lawn. “Owner occupied…No longer council… Climbing up the social ladder”. Whether your friends stayed council or mortgaged, there was a great sense of community and the estate was your extended family. A play date back then was a gathering on the kerb by the yellow water hydrant or on the steps by the granny flats. You just went there without What’s App to make arrangements and you’d sit a while and wait to see who showed up before knocking on doors down the street to call for your pals.
We played “kerby” by the bus stop and football when there were enough of us. Jumpers on the road to mark out the goal, knowing we would have to move twice an hour for the bus but rarely bothered by other vehicles in our road across the middle of the estate. Back in the day when buying your own home and having plastic windows was more important than having a car…there was time to play on the road. It was normal to play on the road. A rare but simple pleasure our kids will never know.
I’ve still got lots of “old friends” from the estate where I grew up…in the flat where I lived until I was 26. We don’t see each other much but we have a very special shared history that spanned the best part of 18 years. A few moved away…a house exchange for something bigger, someone’s mum got married to a man with his own house across town, someone’s dad got made redundant and had to take a job in Sheffield…but most of us stayed there all our childhood. A couple of us went to schools outside our village due to academic or religious preferences. Some of the chat and gossip became less relevant but they were still you’re “old friends” and you hung out with them in the evening after school and at weekends. You got to know the people they talked about even though you had never met. Imagining what “Ashley the hunk” looked like and how “Melissa the bitch” strutted across the playground with her cronies following her like sheep. Those chats…that ran into the dusk hours sat on the wall by the shops or on the kerb under the streetlights…moths fluttering around the neon lamp, buzzing and dropping on our heads if they got too close to the hot glass…sending the girlie girls running squealing into the road. Inconsequential yet vivid memories that still make me smile.
There were six “old friends” at soft play this morning. Running, jumping, tumbling, chasing, climbing, squealing, appearing at the table with damp wiry fringes to offload a high speed ramble about what Esme or Chloe or William has been doing. I don’t hear the detail but join in the laughing as if I approve. And off. Mums and a few small siblings sit drinking coffee or tea catching up on how the first term of school has gone…first day tears, sick bugs and nits, homework and teachers, routines and learning feats…same adventure played out by six “old friends” across six different schools around town. And then one kid breaks the play, sits down to have a snack and a Mexican wave of mums are pulled up to the café counter one by one for Snaps, Quavers, Pom Pom bears and juice. Too quickly two hours had passed. Before we left we tried to capture the moment on camera. Getting five kids to look and smile all at once was a tough gig. Five mums poised, clicking and calling. “Look at me darling…smile!”. I got tongues and faces, jumping blurs and heads in all directions. We resigned ourselves to “surely one will be ok”. The shot of the Mums at the table wasn’t much better!
After lunch H and I went to buy cake from the local Co-op and Hannah took her scooter. We often used to go to the shops when she sat in her old fashioned pram, pushchair or push along trike but it isn’t something we do very often now and never with the scooter. When she was small in the summer I used to take her out for a walk every evening, sometimes we would sit and watch the world go by on the raised flower beds at the top of our road. Hannah would sit on the wall next to me wanting to be independent, my hand firmly holding the belt of her trousers or grasping a twist of t-shirt in case she wobbled. A tiny tot who always wanted carrying home and often lay her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. Today’s “pop” to the shop was more of a pootle as Hannah learnt to manoeuvre the scooter over the bumpy and inconsistent pathway. I kept moving around her, arms stretched out ready to catch her if she were to fall. Feeding her words of encouragement. She rode the whole way there and pushed the Elsa branded wheels around the shop. The novelty wore thin as we reached our street on the way home. “You can help me carry it now mummy”. Inevitable words. Did I groan? No… I felt a great sense of pleasure sharing this simple task with my little princess. As we walked slowly home, I looked at her beaming smile and I wished I could do it more often. I promised myself Id make a point of it.
The cake we purchased was for afternoon tea with more “old friends”…from another pre-school…served as a side dish to chat and tea for the Mums. Four girls playing with the dolls house, assembling Mr potato head, mucking out the mini stable full of horses, putting on make up at the pink dressing table, eating jam sandwiches and cocktail sausages. Four mums talking about school, weddings, work, clothes, family, being too polite, not being polite at all and the wedding dress that tragically became a cover for the boiler. It seemed so quiet when they all went home as we lay on the sofa for a cuddle…H and I.
And tomorrow I’ll be back at work.. back to being busy working mum. And it made me think about my busy day of “old friends”, new friends, sharing play, sharing chat and spending my Monday with H. Throughout life we all remember little things or moments that we enjoy and that remain special in our memory without particular reason. Perhaps for some my day would seem very normal. Perhaps it’s the contrast to my normal Monday…maybe it’s the time I spent with H…maybe it’s the people with whom we shared our day…but more than anything today was special because it was made up of simple pleasures…
The simple pleasures of a busy working mum.