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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A short script: The Mindfulness Meditation

Toast: Hello body, where can I feel my breath? Nostrils? Belly?

Critic: I’m sure by now you should have decided which one to focus on. You’re just playing music in your head, honestly how hard can it be to focus on your breath?

Toast: Ok try again, in… out… in… out…

Mouse: I’m not sure you should be using words… Let’s try silently

Radio: “la la la doo doo monsters all up in my head, doo bee boo dee”

Toast: Shut up radio

Critic: Seriously? Thinking and music? You’re supposed to be quietening your mind and it’s just getting noisier

Mama: Shhh darling it’s OK. The mind will wander off 100 times, just gently escort it back to the breath

Toast: Hello body. How are you? I think I’ll choose the belly today. Rise and fall, rise and fall… Rise… and fall…

Mama: You’re doing great

Mouse: I’m sure this is supposed to be making us feel peaceful. Do you feel peaceful yet? Try and remember how your therapist talked you through it, I’m not sure we’re doing it right.

Toast: Goodnight Mouse, try and get some sleep. Goodnight body…

Mama: Sleep well honey. I’ll see you in the morning.