Having spent the better part of my premenopausal life avoiding pregnancy, I have spent the entirety of post menopausal life “egging” the son on to embrace reproduction. My enquiry into his plans for parenthood have not always been met with a ready enthusiasm to discuss the subject with me, his Mother. We developed a ritual exchange on the subject.
“Don’t be selfish. Think of me.”
“Mother, you are the last person I am thinking about.”
News that the DiL was in labour came in a group whatsapp message. Regular updates followed. Then as day one drifted into day two and my nerves began to jangle, I went in search of distraction, and because deep down I am a shallow person, I went shoe shopping.
If you are living through the protracted childbirth of people you have invested a future in, and can’t find anyone who is prepared to be a captive audience to your anxiety and your excitement, and especially if you can’t see much, shopping provides the ideal alternative. It is not an undertaking to be done alone. You will require assistance. This means some lucky retail assistant can be held captive to my, or your, need to talk. The #John Lewis sale, coupled with their legendary customer service, was the perfect outlet. Help in this moment of emergency was at hand.
In the shoe department I bumbled about before spotting a likely candidate and asking, “Excuse me. Do you work here?” Jackpot. Help secured, I was fairly certain I could now drop the bomb. “Actually, my daughter-in-law is having a baby. I don’t know why I have come shoe shopping. What was I thinking? Do you mind if I tell you this?” She could hardly say no.
“How exciting,” she said. Then, not to be thrown off task, “These are nice.”
“Not keen on heels,” I whooped. “She’s been in labour since yesterday.”
“Poor thing. How about blue?”
“Blue’s good. It’s taking a long time.”
She had every blue shoe in a size six in her arms. “Would you like to try these on?”
“I would but what else have you got?” Anything to keep her captive.
“How about pink?”
“Alright. I’m sure they’d phone…”
She led me to a seat and in a neat exchange I agreed to try on pink heels and gold trainers if she would just allow me a bit of commentary on the impending birth. She did and I garbled on about babies.
Those trainers looked terrible, but I wasn’t finished yet with my need to burble about impending Grannydom, so I said I’d need to walk about a bit if she could just come with me. I think I might have started repeating myself, or at least somehow let the mask of serious shopping intent slip a bit. She had reached her limit. Even #John Lewis has to draw the line somewhere.
It’s amazing what a good push can do. Not the kind that brings a baby into this world, but the type that takes you out of your normally sensible flat “blue” shoe comfort zone. Pink suede seemed to be a really good investment. She was quite persuasive.
‘Why not celebrate a new beginning with a new beginning?’
Under normal circumstances I would never have agreed to luminous pink, but I did. I was in no position to fight it.
The flatmate says those shoes are possibly pinker than I may have intended. That’s the price of distraction. I have not told her that there are another two pairs behind the sofa. On the up side, it’s #John Lewis. You can take them back.
The Grandson, henceforth to be known as “the Grand”, is a beautiful shade of baby pink.