I was flying solo in the supermarket last week loading my items from the trolley to the register. I noticed the mother and son next in line behind me, the little boy in his school uniform leaping about all over the trolley, his mother had a great, artist type look about her, wild blonde hair tamed back in a loose low ponytail, no make up save bright red lipstick colour matched perfectly with her wide framed glasses.
As I was paying for my shopping she smiled at me and came forth with a burst of confessional conversation, "I couldn't help but notice all your 'good' food and then look at what I'm buying, we don't normally eat this sort of food (packs of iced cupcakes, frozen salt and pepper squid, chips, lollies etc;) its his birthday tomorrow you see, and well you know you just get pressured into buying all this sort of stuff." She stood looking at me apologetically and then looking at her son who was so excited about all the loot on the counter, said to him "We normally eat carrot sticks and tzatziki, don't we?"
I smiled and quickly wanted to reassure her that she wasn't doing the most terrible thing in world. I said, "Oh I understand. I have a little boy the same ages as yours, I know how it goes at parties. Don't worry about it, have a great party and you can get back to the carrot sticks on Monday." She laughed and said thanks. I gave her another reassuring smile and walked away smiling to myself at the strangeness of the exchange, that she felt the need to confess to me.
I really liked this lady from the five minutes I spent in her company. It was clear she loved her little boy and wanted to give him a birthday party that he would love, but she seemed torn. Torn between being 'pressured' into buying 'party food' and knowing it wasn't really 'good' (nourishing) food and tying that up with wanting to give her little boy the party he wanted. If I had more time with her I would have loved to have talked about party food that is fun and REAL. And guilt-free. No need to apologise or confess to strangers in the supermarket.
A few days later I was at the organic farm we go to to buy fruit and vegies. I bumped into a friend and we were chatting, as we chatted my attention was drawn to a young mum who came through the door as she juggled her shopping bag, wallet, keys and bundle of baby. I remember those new days so well. The mother and baby looked dreamy, contained in a bubble of love and bliss.
Once fully inside the door she stopped as the baby sneezed and then coughed, she turned him to face her and there was bit more coughing and what seemed like a bit of a milk vomit happening. I was paying for my vegies and still chatting to my friend while keeping an eye on what was happening with mother and baby. Before I had finished paying the new mum had spun around and whisked her baby back out to the car. Sol and I trundled out soon after heading to our car I saw the mum driving past my car. I waved her down. She stopped with a concerned look on her face and wound down her window, probably thinking who is this woman I can't stop now something is up with my baby!
"Is everything ok?" I asked walking over to her car. "I don't know. My little boy was just sick and his color changed a bit and I've never seen him do that before," she said. I looked over her seat to see the baby looking happy enough and pink cheeked in his capsule. "He looks like he is ok now. Perhaps he just needed to get something out to feel better. Is he your first baby?" I asked. "Yes he is" she said looking a little more relaxed, "and I just thought I'd better take him home." "Can I get your vegies for you while you stay with your baby?" I offered. "Oh no. Thanks so much but that's ok. I might come back later. I just feel like I should take him home." "Ok I don't mind really, you're here now I just thought it might be easier for you." Her face had uncreased and she was smiling, "Thanks anyway." And off she drove.
The distance between me and these women in my village felt wide because we'd not met before, I didn't know their names or phone numbers, the names of their children, but at the same time the distance felt short because we stand in the same tribe as women and mothers going about our day-to-day work nurturing, protecting and providing for our children.
My husband is always talking to me about 'it takes a village to raise a child' (usually when the house is in complete disarray and he is bringing in or taking out washing, or cooking dinner, or washing the dishes and lamenting the ridiculousness of western society where the majority of families live separately rather than communally or inter-generationally). And I agree with him. Reflecting on my exchanges with these women I think it takes a village to raise a family. It takes a village to support parents, and grandparents and aunties and uncles too.
How is life in your village? Are you in a good one? A nourishing, supportive one?