Alice Wheeler 32/365

Alice’s voice takes me back to when I could hold my first child in two hands. She has a lovely Scottish lilt and a calmness that is catching.

We were brought together by the National Childbirth Trust in 1999. There were eight of us who had given birth at the same time in our pocket of London, and we were invited to take our babies out of the house (out of the house!) and drink five different types of tea in the lounge of a kind person who had offered to be a host/waitress for us. And then we were all set free and had to play host to each other. That meant tidying up the house once every eight weeks and stocking all teas but English Breakfast.

I wish I could remember details of the conversations intermingled with the shock, hilarity and quiet insanity that was laid on the carpet with the baby in those first tea groups. I remember being praised and tutted at for being the first with a baby who slept through the night. I remember that one of us was bringing along her second baby and we looked up to her as if she was a Goddess for managing to have kept another baby alive until it was seven.

Alice took the whole thing in her stride. We were given a list of everyone’s details but I called her first. We spent our babies’ first and second Christmases together and our daughters bonded like twins. We bonded like twins. She was so easy going and laid back and I would flop on her couch knowing that my toddler could touch everything. She had a Danish mum who was a jewelry designer and Alice would throw jewelry parties on her behalf until my jewelry box was full and purse empty.

One day she told me about her fifteen minutes of fame as a child on the TV show ‘Why Don’t You…?’ It was one of my favourite shows and my sisters and I loved the irony of a programme telling you to ‘switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead.’ Alice said that she went on the show aged nine with her large collection of plastic bags from shops. I had to stop her there. I said ‘Yes, I remember, you were sitting in your bedroom and you showed us bags from all around the world, some of them were on your wall, they were all very different and colourful.’ Her fifteen minutes of fame had been remembered by this little smock wearing nine year old! She was a very confident and enterprising child and that streak has stayed with her.

Not long after I had my second baby, I called Alice in the morning as usual to arrange to meet in the park and she wasn’t there. Much later she called me from Scotland. During the night she had taken the decision to move to Glasgow and had gone. It’s a long story that ended happily. A year later, in 2002, we went to her beautiful Scottish wedding where her daughter was the bridesmaid, and that had been the last time we spoke until today.

We both feel really bad that it has taken us until now to pick up the phone. She talks about how lovely it is to see everyone on Facebook but in my heart of hearts, I really don’t think it is any substitute for a phone call. Alice tells me that her daughter is musically gifted and is at the Scotland’s top music school. She hadn’t mentioned that on Facebook! She said she doesn’t like to boast. If Facebook is the glossy holiday brochure of our lives, we all perhaps have a tendency to be miss out the information of the top resorts and the slummy dives for fear of appearing full of ourselves or unfriendworthy!

In the spirit of ‘Why Don’t You?’, Alice has opened her own shop in Balfron near Glasgow, selling the beautiful jewelry that her mother and now she, makes. It is called ‘Wonderland’ so, at work, Alice answers the phone by saying ‘Alice in Wonderland!’

We agree to speak again soon, for jewelry orders (mine all went in a theft) and priceless chat.  ‘Wonderland’ well describes those days we spent together with our newborns, fourteen years ago.

Alice in the red, me in the white, and friends and babies.

Alice in the red, me in the white, and friends and babies.

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