Such a perfect day
Being a self employed work at home first time mummy means that time is so precious … she sleeps, I work, or I write (or do washing, cleaning and so on) … she’s awake and I follow in her wake ensuring she’s not trapping her fingers in doors, diving off furniture, eating cleaning fluids and generally getting into scrapes … I spend most days juggling, it can be exhausting at times but I’ve become used to it and relish the time spent with Hope and feel more productive than I have been in the past during the ‘work moments’. The trouble is I often feel that I’m spreading myself too thinly, that I’m not doing as much as I should as effectively as I should either as a mother or as a ‘worker’ or as a writer.
The good thing about doing what I do is that as long as I have a wifi connection, a laptop and a phone the whole world is my office … hence coming to California doesn’t mean a holiday, it means that down time is spent in the glorious sunshine, dangling feet in a pool, paddling in the ocean or walking under palm trees, but it also means sitting indoors gazing out at the sunshine when Hope is asleep and I’m working. Focus is hard and the distraction of watching the humming birds and lizards outside is very alluring. The other huge difference is that here I have no child care, at home, she spends 2 days a week with wonderful women and some equally lovely small folk and I beaver away behind my screen … here, even more than at home, time is of the essence. Her Godmother (when she’s not out at work or away on business) takes her for small adventures and her housemate has spent several happy hours drinking cups of pretend tea in the playhouse in the garden and pushing Hope around on her small pink Harley (well tricycle but I have upped its status) … this has given me a few extra hours to ‘get work done’ and to write … trouble is that my writing brain isn’t very good at being time slotted, however hard I train it my mind wanders out to the dappled pool gleaming in the sunshine at me.
So, most days here I have not just juggled, but grasped every Hope free minute for work and loved ever Hope-full minute for play. Yesterday, the heatwave broke, the weather was beautiful and I decided to stop juggling for one day and have a whole day focussing entirely on Hope, doing things she loves and having fun… it was glorious and felt so very special.
We had a lazy start to the day, she had cereal, I had a bagel and we sat outside looking at humming birds and butterflies. Then she pottered round emptying her tupperware cupboard (her Godmother is so thoughtful) and then re-stacking it again while sucking on ice cubes and singing row row row the boat (in perfect tune). Then we headed out, she chose the orange top and the stripey green trousers and the pink sandals and me in whatever came to hand.
We went to a small Mission town about an hour south of us … Hope slept in the car clutching “eee ooorrrrr” and I really enjoyed seeing the grassy mountains and sang happily along to “dingle dangle scarecrow” (yes the all important CD came too).
We reached our destination and Hope woke up as I was putting her into her pushchair, she was a little annoyed with me but then she spotted the swings. The town have recently refurbished their old town park and the playground looked like a ranch … horse saddles as swings, sheriff’s badges as steps and a pretend water pump in the sandpit … it was lovely … she pottered around with little shouts of “oh wow” (her mother’s daughter) and then we walked around to the Petting Zoo.
I really hadn’t expected to be impressed, from the outside it looked hot and dusty and a little tired, she had to pay a whole $7 to go in (I was $8) and I really felt very cynical … especially when we had to pay an extra $3 for a food tray of carrot, lettuce and apple … but her face when we walked in and she saw the huge enclosure full of straw and guinea pigs was a real picture. She physically fought to get out of the pushchair and once released moved faster than she’s ever moved before to get to the gate, “Hope see, Hope see, see see SEE”. We went in and she squealed with joy when one of the 50 or so guinea pigs scuttled past. Several other children had little furry friends up beside them on the benches all round the straw enclosure, each child was exclaiming with delight. Some were obviously a bit over excited and squeezing the creatures too tightly, not Hope, bless her, she quietly walked through the middle of them, turned around and said, “oh wow Mummi” and then put her finger to her mouth and said, “shhhhhhhh” and sat down in the middle of the pen and patted the space beside her. She is obviously a small descendant of Dr Doolittle, two guinea pigs wandered over and stopped just by her side. She fed them with carrot and apple and exclaimed, “eating eating” … I know I’m a sentimental old fool but I did have tears in my eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her as happy.
We stayed in the magical enclosure for about 2 hours … I wasn’t bored for one second, it was fantastic watching her joy and then the way chatted away to other children and just observed the guinea pigs scurrying about their business. She’d stroke one if it stopped near her and quietly say, “soft soft soft” under her breath. Then suddenly she stood up and came over to me and said, “all done” and led me by the hand to the gate. We washed our hands and went to see the rabbits (“babbit”) and the goats and then she spotted the horses.
There was a sort of a staging post area with three horses (small, medium and stallion) tethered up eating straw … she stood stock still and turned round beaming and pointing wildly, “horsey Mummi Horsey”. I gave in totally at that point and went and paid another $5 for a horse ride, I figured if she didn’t want to stay on the horse it didn’t matter.
A nice cowboy called Gerald came and took us to the smallest of the horses, called Shadow (“shhhado”), I was carrying Hope and she was leaning and reaching to get to the horse, “up Mummi up, horsey” … and sure enough, up she went, I sat her on the saddle and Gerald fastened a special high backed harness thing around her to stop her from falling off. Hope sat straight backed and upright and pointed forwards in a very imperious manner, Shadow set off, led by Gerald. If I thought Hope was happy before, she was beside herself with utter complete contentment… she went totally silent and just smiled with her whole body as she absorbed every moment. If she did speak it all it was to say, “happy”, “mummi” or “horsey” … other than that she was silent and beaming. Again I welled up, infact this time I actually started to cry… I then felt hugely guilty that I was experiencing such a wonderful time and her Godmother, her father and her Grandmother(s) were missing it. Gerald asked me if Hope would like to go round the little circuit again as she was enjoying it so much, and with Shadow walking a little faster this time they set off. It was all too much for Hope who overcame the silence and burst into excited chatter. She pointed at the hills, she patted the horse, she waved at the men digging a trench and she started to sing “why oh why” her ultimate favourite song.
When the second lap finished and it was time to dismount, my happy little horsewoman said, “oh mummi Hopey happy” (her longest sentence to date) and lent forward and kissed the horse’s mane. At that point it was a good thing that a) the horse wasn’t for sale and b) I have no money anyway … otherwise we’d now have a mottled pie bald pony tethered up in the garden.
We went and washed our hands and happy Hopey spotted a play “grain store” full of corn … a bit like a huge sand pit. She clambered in and sat and played with the corn, wriggling her toes in it with glee. I love how children wear their delight so openly.
20 minutes later she got a little cross (she also wears her displeasure openly!) when I suggested it was time to go to the slide …. but shortly afterwards (just long enough to make it look as if it was her idea), she demanded to be lifted out and headed across the dusty Wild West style village square to the ladder up to the slide … she clambered up the straw bales and carefully and resolutely headed up the ladder with me havering around at the bottom. She walked through the upper storey of the little house and appeared at the top of the slide and shouted, “hallo” with a broad Cockney accent. She then sat down and slid down at high speed giggling all the way. She went up and down at least 12 times before she asked for some “wader” (still with an American accent …) so we sat under a tall gum tree and ate our picnic … cheese sandwiches, ‘am, salami, grapes,”booobies” (blueberries) and she was thrilled to bits to have her own bag of crisps, something called Pirates Booty, apparently organic corn puffs, all washed down with waaaderr and an orange (which she had to peel), the whole feast topped up with a big and happy slurp of breastmilk … from both sides!
Then it was time to play again, time time with a new friend, Lily … a pretty little girl with hair as dark as Hope’s is fair, while her mother and I stood proudly at the bottom of ladders and slides enjoying seeing the two of them playing together. It was a good feeling to have another ‘mommie’ to talk to and to see Hope making a little friend … we’ve organised to meet up some other time which is great, it can be lonely at times in paradise.
Lily’s mother gave us a round wooden token which was valid for another horse ride … Hope was like an old hand as she lent forward and patted Shadow and urged her steed forward. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the hills behind the trail looked golden, she was just like a little Annie Oakley. My own small Sun Dance Kid.
We bade farewell to Gerald and Shadow and had a final convene with the guinea pigs, my self assured daughter this time showing the one or two other children how to hold the carrot and even how to stroke the guinea pigs. Then we went to wash her hands, Hope was so grubby and dusty I had to stand her in the sink … she chortled and splashed me.
She suddenly realised as we were walking out that we were leaving and she got a little hysterical, luckily we could see Shadow from outside so we were able to wave him goodbye.
We walked up the little lane to the old town and found a sunny spot under a banana tree and shared a fresh squeezed lemonade and an ice cream … again Hope said, “happy Hopey” as she smeared chocolate and vanilla ice cream everywhere.
She waved at the passers by, she sang Frere Jacques, she wolfed down her ice cream; she was just the epitome of happiness … so was I.
On the way back to the car we had a quick trip to the lovely playground, she shouted “wheeeeeeee” from the leather bucket swing, and she concentrated on the sand pit and then made clicking / trotting sounds when she sat on an old leather saddle attached to a log.
She slept in the car and when I lifted her out at home, she half opened her eyes, said, “mummi, happy” and went back to sleep. Caked in dust, ice cream and sand with bits of blueberry in her hair and little grubby fits clenched I carried her upstairs and let her have a snooze. She woke up an hour later, we washed her down, she wolfed down a huge bowl of pasta and watched the little movie clip I’d made of her and Shadow, again, and ” ‘gain, ‘gain” until she rubbed her eyes and fell asleep in my arms.
I’d love to have the privilege of a little more money, so I didn’t have to scrape together an income to pay the bills, but I know how fortunate I am to be able to juggle as I do and to share the good times we share. Yesterday, without any doubt, offered more than a few of the very best moments of my life.
Today I’m back to juggling but that’s just fine, I’m planning on having a “Mommie and Me” day (as the American’s call them), when it’s all about her and nobody else, once a week while I’m over here and not letting work or the rest of life intrude on our time.
Who knows what Hope’s first memory will be when she’s older, probably one of me stopping her from having fun, but maybe, just maybe it will be sitting on Shadow, the sun on the hills, her proud mother walking alongside.
It feels almost indecent to be as happy as I am as I recall our perfect day together … I am very truly blessed.
Happy days indeed…. and quite the longest post I’ve ever written…