Another Time

My babies

I walked into the shopping centre with a purpose. I knew they had a store that I’d been to before, years ago, when the little travellers were babies. It’s a new centre, only half the stores are open. I was on my own and walking awkwardly, one of my shoe straps kept slipping which meant I had to stop every ten steps to lift it back over my heel before setting off again. At one point I tried to elegantly dip mid stride to fix the problem. I was spectacularly unsuccessful. Looking inebriated I tried desperately to keep a straight face. Nothing to see here. Just keep walking. And then I had to stop and do it again.

When I finally made it into the store I forgot about my troublesome shoe. I was instantly somewhere else and winced at the memories. It all looked the same. Franchises are good like that. They can transport you anywhere at any moment. That’s why expats flock to the likes of Starbucks, Boots pharmacies and Marks and Spencer. They speak an international language. The same green bags, the same home brand, the same grande skinny latte, no fat no foam please. Familiarity means a chance to take a breath, I know how this works, this will be easy – quite often the quality is irrelevant it’s the sense of warmth and safety.

I can be in Mothercare here and instantly be in Malta. Starbucks will have me dressed for work in Canada, Tim Hortons is a bagel on a weekly road trip to Red Deer. NEXT is Jakarta, wheeling my way around Pasar Raya trying to get a new baby to sleep. IKEA is Kuala Lumpur, Calgary and Houston – each new arrival requiring a quick visit to the tried and trusted for a bed that was needed yesterday. I return back to those countries (sometimes plural) on each and every visit. A piece of fabric can instantly have me in a girlfriends living room.

It was a quick present for a new baby. I thumbed my way through tiny little outfits, sighing at the cuteness of elephants and puppies. Someone watching could have mistaken my nostalgia for the yearning of a new baby – but it’s not.

It’s the time I’m yearning.

It’s time that somehow feels wasted. Time that you never get back. Time that you watched, second by second on the clock, thinking it would last forever. In reality, it was time that went too quickly. It’s not a yearning for a new baby. It’s a yearning for your current babies. Your babies who are growing to quickly because surely it was only a couple of years ago that you were buying onesies and nappy/diaper cream?

I wandered back to the car. Stopping again every ten steps while awkwardly attempting one legged strap retrievals. As I lent against the wall trying to inconspicuously once again retrieve my strap while looking like a woman who’d enjoyed half a bottle of gin on her cornflakes – I noticed the indoor play centre. The “fun centre” looked anything but fun. Multitudes of little children with mothers practicing crowd control while attempting to finish a sentence or listen to a story. I smiled to myself thinking that in all my brilliant nostalgia there is not one play centre which features.

I don’t miss babies – I still have them in another form.

I miss the time. The time that doesn’t come back, as much as you reminisce and retell. Another place, another story, a different moment.

I’m yearning for another time.

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