Memories of a Mother in the Park

I remember a mother, sitting on the bench with her children. It shocks me to realise that the day I saw her must be ten or more years ago. We did not speak or acknowledge each other, but somehow an image of the moment has stayed with me.

We had both come to the park that morning and sat on benches facing each other across a tree-lined pathway. I must have been at a loose end; I was at university and had just finished my exams. The luxuriousness of no longer being chained to a desk, revising, allowed me to while away a morning reading.

Your two children were young, even younger than mine are now. A boy, perhaps not even two, and a baby just a few months old. You pulled out a book for your son, and began nursing the baby.

This is all that happened, yet somehow this memory remains with me. The soft breeze, dappled sunlight, and birdsong heard through the rustle of leaves remain clear. Perhaps in you I saw part of what I hoped my future might look like. Motherhood, small children, books and time spent outside in the sunshine. It looked idyllic.

I told my own mum about the sweetness of a mother reading to her children at 9.30am in the park, and she remarked that the poor woman had probably been up for hours. I thought she was being unnecessarily cynical, spoiling the joy of my observations. But I get it now. The mother probably had been up since the crack of dawn, and she probably was exhausted. Ten years on I am a mother too, and I hope that on the days that I am worn out, there might be a woman younger than me looking on, thinking that my life looks idyllic.

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