Time and again I find myself craving things. I go out to buy myself food, then I go to the wool shop and buy yarn, and of course my biggest addiction buying books. Our largest bookstore chain in South Africa has two annual sales, the winter sale and the summer sale, and I have been very dedicated in attending them from my days in Johannesburg to this day. I know I missed a few when I was overwhelmed with work at the garage, but I usually make it a point to be there as soon as my closest branch opens on sale day. This year I was there one full day too early, I showed up with Robert on Tuesday, and found an almost deserted mall. The staff at the bookstore were still setting up the tables of the sale books, which weren’t open to public viewing yet, so I had to try again the very next day.
Earlier this week Ron sent me a text message to say that he would like to “look after Robert” sometime, and I arranged for him to be with Robert on Wednesday, when I planned to go and hand in Robert’s registration forms for the daycare, and now I simply had to add checking out the sale books to my program. To make my life still more complicated a friend called on Tuesday inviting us to lunch with a few other moms, and of course I wanted to be there too. Plans were changed at short notice; Ron’s visit with Robert was rescheduled to an earlier time, I asked him to pick him up at 8 AM rather than ten, so that I can make the lunch date at my friend’s at eleven. On the day I rushed from home to the post office then quickly on board a bus to the Waterfront, and I spent a couple of hours browsing books. I did not spend as much as I used to in the old days, and even though I bought some books for Robert as well my purchases were relatively conservative this year. Perhaps the constraint of time also helped, I had to leave to make it in time for the lunch/playdate.
I picked up Robert just after eleven then I walked with him to where my friend’s place. I met W a few weeks ago at the park and we related to each other quickly because we are both single moms. Her story is slightly different, because she was not married to the father of her baby, but we still ended up in similar situations. In her case, the father sends money regularly but does not want to be involved in any other way. Sometimes I wish this was the case for us as well. Ron’s contribution to our finances is pathetic and in return for it I have to put up with his strange behaviour and venomous comments, and I do not consider it a fair bargain at all. Another thing that W and I have in common is that we both share accommodation with friends. W’s place is more chic and upmarket than this old home, but the problems are still the same. We both need to protect our babies from the dangers in the house – in her case there are open steps and banister- and at the same time we need to protect the house (or its contents) from the menace of little hands and feet. When the moms showed up we had a full complement of little boys, ranging in age from 4 months to just over a year. W’s son had just turned one on the 14th of July (Bastille Day – which incidentally is also my dad’s birth date). The older kids spent some time playing and generally making a mess while the little ones watched angelically from their cots or cushions, there was curry for lunch and then cake and muffins for tea, and we all enjoyed ourselves. Robert tried many new toys, and naturally they held his interest much longer than the toys at home. A rattle with a long handle was a hit with his as usual. I was very surprised though when he suddenly found interest in a ring stacker. He has a similar toy at home, and I have been trying to show him how to fit the rings correctly around the base, but he was had never shown real interest in the process until today. W’s son had loads of interesting toys, but Robert spent most of his time playing with the ring stacker. All good times come to an end though, and my queue to leave was Robert’s voice increasing in volume, announcing that he had enough and was really tired, so I had to leave in a hurry. The problem was fixed immediately once we started moving and Robert went to sleep in the stroller as soon as we cleared the block. I often wonder how I would deal with a similar situation on a long-haul flight, I get panicky just thinking about it.
Because Robert was peacefully sleeping I got to stop at the shops once again. I bought more books from the book sale, this time from the tiny branch near our place. Then I bought more goodies from the supermarket – savory muffins and a Thai Chicken. Robert and I arrived home shortly before sundown. Later in the evening I spread out my prizes for the day; there were books for me and Robert and a dozen baby pajamas from W’s son, and lo and behold there was a light sweater and two vests which Ron must have bought for Robert. Maybe I should think that it was nice of him to buy something, but since he is the father I find these items rather insufficient, something that a childless friend would buy because they did not want to spend too much money. When it comes to buying things for Robert, my ex is hopelessly outdone by my family and my friends. His own family made more effort for Robert’s sake than he did, and even Jackie’s mom made a bigger effort. Now I know what ex wife number one must have felt when her kids used to get silly birthday cards or cheap presents, and I know what my ex meant when he used to complain: “what’s the point of sending this?”. I really fail to see the point of two vests and a cheap sweater.