Every Wednesday afternoon I drive into town to deliver Imogen to her place of work. She spends two hours house cleaning. And I wait. For two hours.
Filling in hours? I’ve done a lot of that over the years. Waiting while my children have piano lessons, clarinet lessons, singing lessons, swimming lessons, musicianship lessons, while they work, have music exams, dental check-ups, busk for pocket money… At first there was a lot of groaning and sighing and watch-watching while I was waiting. There was a lot of thinking, “Is the lesson over yet?” But then I decided I had to fill in the waiting time in a profitable way, a way that would make the time seem to go faster.
So I’ve used waiting time to shop, to visit the library, to read to the girls while we sit in the van, or read to myself, or write…
Last Wednesday I had to take all four girls into town with me. I had no big-brother-sister-sitters to look after Sophie and Gemma-Rose, and I needed Charlotte to help me with the grocery shopping. Gemma-Rose pulled a long face. She didn’t want to go out on a cold and wet afternoon. I didn’t really want to go out either. So I thought…
“If you help me with the shopping, we’ll buy something delicious for afternoon tea.” (I’m not above bribery.) “And we could take a thermos of hot chocolate along and find somewhere to have a picnic afternoon tea together, before going back to collect Imogen.”
So we set off for town. Imogen was deposited at her soon-to-be-pristine-clean house. The rest of us headed to the supermarket. Up and down the aisles we flew filling a couple of trolleys. Last of all, we placed a tray of yogurts on top of the huge pile of food. The girls had decided on a healthy treat. Did I have spoons? Yes: the emergency pack in my bag.
We still had an hour to fill so I drove to the lake. “Shall we have a brisk walk around the lake before or after our afternoon tea?”
“Before,” said Charlotte firmly, but as we stepped out of the van, a few drops of rain fell from the sky.
“A few drops of rain won’t hurt us,” I reassured everyone. But at the back of my mind were thoughts of hair. My nicely in place, blow-dried hair might soon be plastered flat against my head. Could I stand that?
A quarter of the way round the lake, we could no longer pretend there were only a few drops of rain falling upon us: it was pouring down. We turned around and ran back towards the van. Yes, I ran.
We settled our little-bit-soggy selves into the back of the van and poured out the steaming hot chocolate into cups, handed round spoons and yogurt and enjoyed! There is something quite wonderful about sitting in a steamed up vehicle on a cold day eating and laughing together. Is it because we rarely do such things? Were we having a little unexpected adventure on a wet afternoon?
By the time our cups were empty, the rain had ceased. “Shall we try again?” I asked and soon we were marching back along the path. The sky was black and threatening, and the air blew cold upon our faces and hands. As we crossed the bridge, we noticed water rushing and tumbling into a waterfall as it flowed out of the lake and disappeared into the bush. We followed the sound of the splashing water through the trees and found ourselves on the edge of the creek. There was a beautiful fresh earthy smell rising from the leaf covered soil. The girls and I looked longingly down the enticing track, which leads away from the lake and into the bush.
“Wouldn’t it be great to take a walk through the bush,” sighed Sophie, knowing we didn’t have time.
“Next time,” I promised as we rounded the other side of the lake, our van coming into view.
Later that evening I thought about our afternoon. We had turned a 2 hour wait into a very pleasant experience. We hadn’t spent much money or travelled very far. We hadn’t even had good weather. But we’d had a great time together. Even Gemma-Rose who’d not wanted to come along.
I learnt two things that afternoon. The first is that it can be quite inconvenient having my older boys grow up and get involved with their own lives. No longer can I rely on them to help out as sister sitters. The dynamics of our family are changing. We’ve gone back to the days when I sometimes have to take younger children with me when I go out. And that means readjustments and some clever thinking. Which leads me onto the second lesson I learnt…
I learnt there is an adventure hiding in every moment. A two hours’ wait can be a dreary watch-watching experience, or with a little imagination, it can be an opportunity to have some unexpected fun.
Oh yes, I learnt something else too… Walking in the rain does turn blow-dried hair into a flat head-hugging mess but it doesn’t kill you. I remember looking at the faces of my girls, stretched wide by smiles, as they gave me – their adventurous mother – tight hugs. And I thought, “What does it matter what I look like? Will I put my appearance, the weather or my comfort before having fun with my girls?”
Well… to be honest I am a person who likes her comfort and being very much together and in control. But I am changing…
Leanne, perhaps I’ll turn into a camping person yet!!
But before then, there is next Wednesday afternoon, more hot chocolate and a bush track to explore…