If you have little kids, it seems like forever that you’ll again enjoy a lie-in, a quiet meal with nothing spilled or thrown, or a week day evening without driving someone to Scouts, Brownies or Karate where while you’re waiting you try your luck with vending machines and making small talk with other parents until you drive home again to put them to bed and then start ironing and making Lunch boxes. But time is already waltzing off. There you were one minute in a cafe as your coffee is bumped out of your hand, and you’re working out how to keep a toddler safe and at the same time change a baby’s nappy that is so strong it’s causing other parents to sniff their own offsprings’ behinds, when a woman in deep middle-age – all unstained raincoat and sensible shoes – smiles at you, leans over and says: “Enjoy this time, it’ll be over sooner than you think.”
And you do your sneer smile because just a few years ago you lived such a life of freedom that you ate out with your partner almost every night, and attended to washing in discreet piles at the back of your wardrobe whenever it so pleased you after eating croissants in bed and drinking coffee with the sunlight cascading over you both, and you rose at 10 am and wandered to the pub hand in hand for lunch after a run in the park. You sat. You read the newspaper. You called friends and laughed at their stories.
But Time has this way of doing things, of being something then not being there, and 15 years have gone by, then 20 years have gone by.
You’re the lady in sensible shoes, your toes knobbly and crushed now by your long-discarded stilettos. You are making sure you sit in the corner of the cafe furthest away from fidgeting children and pungent babies, and as you leave you look at the parent whose pusher is about to topple over as yours did time and time again, holding a baby and restraining a toddler, and you lean in to that person and say “Enjoy this time, it’ll be over sooner than you think.” And you make to walk away, your hand stretches out for a small hand to slot into yours, but there is no hand.
Your children have disappeared into their own adult lives, and you walk away un-touched by the sneer-smile you have just received. Alone.
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