Dhal, happy tears and sequins

Yesterday was the last day of the girls’ summer holidays.  We planned an outdoor pool swim at Exeter University (Little One in her wetsuit!) and a vegetarian lunch in the city centre.

Sitting in Herbies cafe I felt a rush of emotion. I looked at my girls and blinked away the happy-sad tears. This was the space where I had begun to truly find my love for Little One three years ago. The space in which I became a mummy again.

Back in those days we would arrive early, after the “Jumping Beans” dance session at Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre. The same waitress would greet us with crayons, a colouring book and a smile. She would bring a red wooden booster seat which made Little One feel so special. I would have the lunch special: warm, comforting dhal spiked with ginger and chilli.

Yesterday we had other plans for the dhal. In our car park we had found a young girl curled up on flattened boxes, shrouded in a grubby white blanket.  My girls were very shocked and upset, so I suggested to Eldest that we could ask if she’d like us to bring her some food after our lunch. We took back a warm foil box, a paper bag of fluffy naan bread and chatted for a few brief moments.

I can’t even begin to imagine the circumstances that had brought her to sheltering in a car park.  On the way back to the shops, I held my girls’ hands that little bit tighter. When we returned we were relieved to see another stranger sitting down with her and talking about her appointment with a housing officer later in the week.

Shopping for an Autumn outfit for each of the girls, I smiled at their different personalities evident in their choices. A ‘Millenial pink’ batwing cropped jumper with shoulder studs for Eldest (when did pink re-enter her consciousness?) I didn’t tell her that batwing was a favourite of mine at her age!  A maroon sweater with gently gathered shoulders and a heart made out of reversible sequins for Little One. She spent a happy half an hour smoothing the sequins up and down with her hands. Deep, sparkly gold in one direction and muted, matte gold on the other.

On our way home I dropped a card at Herbie’s for the waitress we met three years ago. I wanted to thank her for being a special part of my recovery. For helping me to build memories of myself as a good mummy, not a depressed one.

Thank you, Herbie’s – we will be back.

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