We are in the garden, not long home from the shop, in the midst of unpacking the groceries. The basket of the buggy is full. A carton of milk stands beside it. Inside on the table is a cloth bag of food that really should be in the fridge by now. It has turned into a warm day, even though we needed scarves on the walk to school this morning.
Coming in the gate, we checked the post. A bill and a small parcel. I recognised the handwriting at once and remembered the recent text from a friend in Dublin. A book she’s finished and was sending me. I’d like it, she said. I probably will, I thought. I’ll keep it till later. She’s good for books, that friend.
The groceries half unpacked, curiousity got the better of me. Stood next to the buggy, I opened the parcel. “Hope you enjoy this. It’ll bring back a few Front Square memories” the post-it read. Just that last line was already bringing back memories of Trinity, where she and I met twenty years ago as new friends of a new mutual friend.
God, twenty years ago. Those three girls. 17 and 18 then. Shy, unsure, eager. Gone now. Women now. Wives and mothers. And in between there were so many other stages, other phases. Jobs, people and places have shaped us. A jigsaw once made up of three pieces has become a puzzle almost impossible to put together into the picture it should make up.
Lost in thought and staring at the book without seeing it, my mind was showing a film reel of scenes from years ago. Not the weddings nor the exams, not the birthdays or the holidays. The Halloween party where they said my hair looked pre-raphaelite. Arranging a time and place to meet, in those pre-mobile days. The lecturer and his Sinatra impression. Glimpses of haircuts, boyfriends, pubs and buses, flicking by clear as day.
A rustling brings me back to my garden. The child chasing chickens round the pond. Stopped by a low branch, he considers. Under or over. Under. Under is safer. Going over he might fall. Stumble in his new-to-him boots. Big boy boots bought for an older brother and well-worn now.
I’ll watch him now. Book set aside I sit and watch and listen. Time goes so fast. Will these be the scenes I see in another twenty years when the memories of our closest times together come flooding back?