We'll travel back in time a couple of years. Fasten your seatbelts and sit down in the back there. Ready? Then I'll begin.
It is spring; it is that inbetween kind of a day when it is too hot to wear jumpers whilst on the move but too cool to have short sleeves when sitting down. I have a baby, and so does the curate's wife, newly arrived in the parish (with her husband the curate, although he doesn't really feature in this story). Since this is her first visit to our house, I have cleaned and polished and removed nearly all of Goldy's popcorn from the cracks in the floorboards. I have removed all evidence of slugs from the kitchen, and made flapjacks. I have fresh milk for the coffee, I have wiped down the baby toys and removed the grungiest from the toybox. Paperwork has been
Before Our Curate's Wife (very Provincial Lady!) arrives, we have a visit from the physiotherapist, who gets out baby Mog's splints and trusses her up like a Christmas Cracker. Exercises done and physiotherapist gone, I free Mog once again and try to convince her she'd like to sit in a chair. Mog takes exception to this; as a baby she had to be held all the time, all day long, or scream until she was sick.
Our Curate's Wife arrives, we admire each others' babies and settle down for a chat. I have, for a wonder, remembered to brush my hair. It is a shame that the cleanliness of the house is not reflected in my clothing and that I am, as usual, wearing a fetching white splodge of Mog-sick. This is my constant uniform at this time in our lives. Mog in contrast is pink and pretty, relaxed from her physiotherapy and happy to be the centre of so much attention.
It is as we are chatting that I realise I am wearing my pyjama trousers. These trousers are not immediately obviously PJs, so I frequently wear them all day long. This in itself is not a problem, however the fact that they are inside out with seams very visible is probably less impressive. Our Curate's Wife appears to find it reassuring that I don't have it completely together though, so we now have a slightly more real chat. This is good. Inside out pyjama trousers not the method I would have chosen for getting real, but it'll do.
So we talk not so much about how wonderful it is having babies but about how frustrating it can be, how difficult some things can be, how we feel the need to put on a show at times and shovel all the mess out of the way. I do resist the urge to open my cupboards and reveal my inner chaos, but I think we both know it is there, and we both appreciate that we would find similar things in the houses of most of the people we know. We wonder how people manage to keep a lid on their paperwork, why other people don't have overflowing in boxes and stacks of paper all over the house. With fine coatings of baby sick and dribble. It might not sound much, but the inside out pyjamas sow the seeds for a real friendship, for a time at least, whilst our lives are in the same place.
As Our Curate's Wife gets up to leave the sky darkens and we realise the rain will be here very soon. Umbrellas and jackets are found in double quick time, babies are shovelled into buggies, squawking wildly, and I offer to fun the pair of them home to keep them dry. My offer is declined, but I walk out with them and wave them off down the street. Inside out pyjama trousers I can live with, but as I walk back into the house something is hitting the back of my legs. There follows a short but entertaining (to onlookers) interlude where I twist around to have a look, and the-thing-which-is-hitting-my-legs twists away from me, causing me to pirouette in a manner which I would like to think of as elegant, but which in reality more closely resembles a warped corkscrew than a ballerina. Giving up, and deciding passersby have had enough entertainment for one day, I return to the house. Shrugging off my cardigan I am edified to discover one of Mog's splints velcroed to the seat of it.
Pyjama trousers (inside out). Sick soaked top. And a cardigan festooned with animal print leg splints. Fetching.
That was several years ago. We have a new Curate and Curate's Wife now, with a new set of small children. Mog is a baby no more, and Little Fish is definitely more toddler than infant these days. Today Our Curate came to call, a pastoral visit. This time I was prepared; our cleaner was here yesterday and the house is really rather gloriously tidy. As long as no one opens the bedroom doors. On the surface a far more together parent, one who has the ability to keep on top of all the chaos. Splints safely secured and not on seats, not a speck of sick in sight, and my towering stacks of paperwork are hidden in a blanket chest these days (and stuffed into the keyboard drawer of the computer table but lets not be too honest, shall we?). A more pulled together house, but one question from Our Curate and I dissolve into a soggy puddle of grief. Reality insists on intruding, no matter how much I try to tidy it away.