At home we go to a playgroup … a wonderful playgroup where we’ve both made friends and where I feel happier than I’ve ever imagined feeling.
I never ever expected to enjoy sitting in a circle with a group of other Mothers singing songs about Scarecrows, but I do. I absolutely love it. Generally it is the highlight of the week.
We came to California knowing my old friends, very dear friends, but mainly people 1 – 3 hours north of where we are and none with very small children. Where Hope’s godmother lives we knew quite literally nobody else and it really worried me that Hope would miss out on her ‘play time’ with other small folk her own age.
I researched into various groups and found a local ‘Attachment Parenting’ group … mothers who breastfeed, families that co-sleep, change cloth diapers (ok I use disposable nappies but I did always plan on the cloth type), live on organic food and carry their babies around in pouches. I figured these women would be more ‘me’ than the “Pretty Mommies of OC”. I also joined another group for older mothers but that didn’t amount to anything, maybe they were all too weary to go out and socialize if I’m anything to go by.
I went to a couple of events that I found on the AP (I’m so in with the acronyms now) site, one I felt like a fish out of water at, but the other, the local La Leche League meeting was wonderful; friendly women full of support and ideas. Then I discovered a weekly playdate for new group members at a local playground.
I was more nervous going along there than I’ve been for many other events in my life. I put Hope in her best trousers and I put some mascara on for a change, it still took me 20 minutes to build the courage to get out of the car and walk up to the circle of women talking together on the grass and breastfeeding their babies.
I sat by a beautiful girl with a wonderful gothic black dress sense that somehow made her look more Audrey Hepburn than Siouxsie Sioux, her little girl Elsie smiled up at Hope while her mother and I chatted. These girls, these attachment parenting mommies were lovely, great fun, relaxed and all, like me, proudly adoring of their small fry.
Every week we got to know each other a little better and it was a real joy seeing the other (on the whole they are younger than Hope) little people grow in confidence, start to sit up or crawl or walk and also begin to recognise and interact with Hope and she with them.
Since we left England she’d rather wistfully ask to look at pictures of Alfie, Hazel, Lydia and ‘Bella but now she has Isis to add to her list of friends. She recognizes the park when we arrive now and starts bobbing up and down in her car seat calling “Isis, Isis” and when we reach the group of Mommies and babies sitting on different coloured rugs in the shade (or the last two weeks as it was colder, in the sunshine), it’s always Isis and her lovely mother that Hope heads straight for.
I was a little apprehensive I’d feel like an outcast being English and older, nothing of the kind, our little group ranges from 19 to 49 and while I’m the oldest by a long way, everyone is welcoming and accepting. We are of many different Nationalities and with multiple accents but we’re all equalised by feeling sleep deprived, proud, confused by baby equipment or excited by the latest lightweight carry pouch.
I get along best with Isis’s mother … she’s the youngest there … odd to think there is 30 years between us and we have children that will be in the same school year, alarming when I actually reflect on it, but she’s incredible. Brave, beautiful, a wonderful mother; attentive, careful, aware her daughter’s needs and a mother I aspire to be like. For her pregnancy was an unplanned, unexpected gift but she and her daughter’s father are making very happy life together and their little girl is now best friends with mine. We’re going to the beach together before Hope and I leave. I think I may have to wear a tent or sit a long way from her, she’s a former surfer and has a model figure. I sank the one time I surfed and I have a celulitey, saggy, wrinkly physique. Hope will probably disown me!
The whole age difference thing doesn’t bother me at all and it doesn’t seem to bother Isis’s mother… the only thing that makes me a little melancholy is that by the time Isis is 30 her mother will be the age I am now and I’ll be 79! But (yes I know don’t start sentences with But… ), but that’s just the way it is and hopefully we’ll still all be going to the beach together from time to time and our girls will still be friends!
So … playing away has been fun. Making new friends has been a joy and I know that next time I come back I have a group of women (quite aside from Auntie Clare and all my old friends) to turn to and that Hope can spend time with Isis and with Freya, Elsie, Viviana and all their little friends.
We had a ‘leaving party’ today at the play park, I took banana bread, melon and raspberries … we were all chatting happily and then the rain came. The first rain here for years … it was only light and then it stopped for long enough for a turn on the swings and then set in for the afternoon leaving the roads like rivers and the thinly dressed Californians looking miserable and soggy as they ran for their cars. Preparation I guess for getting home to late Autumn in England, but we will be going with some extra sun in our hearts thanks to our new friends from our weekly play date.