And so we turn to Leah Madden, mother of four and feet-on-the-ground farmer’s partner. I dial the number and know this is going to be a long call; it’s almost local and late on a Friday night, the perfect time for a real conversation. She has had two more babies since we last spoke. Her eldest is the same age as my youngest and because I was a geriatric mother and she nearer paediatric, there is almost a generation between us! This did not show when we were thrown together in our baby group and it’s not showing tonight either.
I am excited to hear her voice but she is nervous, wondering what I’ll take away from this exchange and post. I tell her that most people tell me stuff I can’t repeat. It has been so long since they have spoken on a landline, they let rip! She complains that with Facebook being our main communication tool, we only ever get to see the good in peoples lives, or the very bad; we both miss the everyday chat.
My children are playing football in the downstairs corridor, the dog starts barking. She laughs that nothing has changed and she is glad to hear that the madness just continues unabated.
The last time we saw each other was at our mutual friend’s funeral. He was the local clairvoyant and a flamboyant character. He died of natural causes early in the morning when he was in an online chatroom. I always wondered if anyone ever replied to the person he was chatting with to explain why Geoffrey had suddenly gone cold. If he’d been talking on the phone, he’d have dropped the receiver. But he just lay back. His funeral was unusual in that the undertaker apologised for the lack of a sound system and felt that Geoffrey was to blame. She said that as soon as his body was brought in, there was lots of activity in the funeral parlour with articles moving round and random items dropping to the floor. His body went off for an autopsy and the activity stopped, then he returned and the activity began again. She spoke about him as if he was there listening, so sure was she that he was.
I was telling my friend Kellie about it in our kitchen straight after the service and the microwave blew up there and then. How many places can you be in at once when you have died?
Leah said that she thinks of Geoffrey a lot. He had told her that she would be pregnant at the end of the journey. She had wondered what he meant by the journey. But there in the funeral parlour, she was pregnant at the end of his.
Our conversation then flits between shared memories, children, friends and she talks about enjoying life for what it is because you won’t come this way again. I tell her that I have just washed a book in the washing machine with a mixed load and all my clothes are covered in paper pulp. We are both washing for an army at moment. Hers has more soldiers but mine are bigger. We lament about laundering hidden tissues and disposable nappies and the effect it has on our lives. It is fitting that the book I washed was ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’
Sticking with the domestic life, she tells me that when the Blue Gum forest was cut down behind her house, fifty thousand mice moved in and would congregate on the middle of the sitting room as if they owned the place. I love talking about things like this and Leah has a knack for remembering the comic. She reminds me of when we met and I hadn’t been able to find anything to tie my hair up in so had used a pair of my children’s knickers. I’m pleased to say they were clean. Leah always had daring shoes and looked after hair when she just had the two children. I wonder if she’ll resort to the knicker bobble now that she has four.
Two hours later, we say ‘let’s talk again, let’s talk soon’ and put the phones down. It’s not over. She is coming to camp in our garden in the summer with all her babes. The washing machine will just have to cope.