The Play Date

It seems Luke is finding it easier to make friends than I am. He’s scored himself a ‘play date’ to his friend Aiden’s house. Growing up we never had to make a date to play with someone, but I suppose that’s the brave new world we’ve entered. Aiden’s mum called the other day during a flash of pure chaos, (which is a moment by moment event in our home). Luke was attempting to ride our dog ‘like woody rides bullseye’. Layla was screaming for food. The poor dog was staring at me pleadingly. I was weighing up just how neglectful it would be if I locked myself in the cupboard and ate milo from the tin.

Luckily, the shrill pierce of our home phone broke the pandemonium and dragged me back to reality. Despite myself I paused for a moment to wonder who would be calling on our new phone? It had only just been installed and old friends didn’t have it yet. New friends – well, we didn’t have any.

“Hello?”

“Oh! Hi! I wasn’t sure if this was the right number.”

“Oh. It’s Marley. Who’s this?”

“Caroline. Aiden’s Mum from prep.” Prep is what pre-school is called in Snobsville. She continued without missing a beat. “Sorry, it’s just, I haven’t called a landline in a while! Everything’s mobile these days…”

“Hello Caroline. I have a mobile too, the landline is just what I gave the pre-sch…I mean, prep. What can I do for you?”

“We haven’t met in person, but Aiden talks about Luke all the time. He’s just desperate for a play date. What days suit?”

Not for the first time since moving, I was a little taken aback at her smooth confidence. “Um, well, any except prep days I suppose. I’m not working at the moment.”

“When does Luke do his activities? I always find Aiden’s a little cranky after swimming. His is on Thursdays. Tennis is first thing Tuesdays but he’s not too bad after tennis.”

“We haven’t signed up for swimming…yet. Any day is fine. How about Friday?”

And so Friday morning we found ourselves at Aiden’s house, armed with a lunch box and Luke’s box of trains which he drags with him everywhere. Caroline greeted us with a smile.

“Well, hi! So glad you could make it. How are you? Let me take that for you.” Caroline is a bubbly woman with a vivacious look about her, and her voice sounds like champagne effervescing over the top of a flute. She ushered us into a huge playroom which looked beautifully white, and I wondered how obvious the juice stains would look if Luke spilled his drink. All of the toys were perfectly stored in wicker storage containers and safely stowed in a large wall unit.

“This is beautiful. Your home is lovely.”

“Oh, you’re a doll. Can I get you anything? Seasonal fruit? A chardonnay?” She offered me a large white platter full of various fruits, (some I didn’t recognise).

“This is fine, thanks.” I smiled, praying I didn’t drip watermelon o the perfect white carpet. Even in the grandeur of my surrounds I felt comfortable here, and I sensed a kindred spirit in Caroline. Despite the white capris and offer of midday drinks.

“The trick is to co-ordinate the colours of all his toys.”

“Sorry?”

“To make the play room look more – you know, inviting. A bit more sophisticated.” It had never occurred to me that sophistication could be inviting to a four year old. “So we have Thomas trains, but only the blue and red ones. Because the colours are blue and red. He has a green wall decal in his room, so green toys stay in there.”

“Oh. Clever.”

“Of course, it’s nothing like you’d find in some of those huge houses on the other side of the highway. In Snobsville proper.”

“Snobsville proper?”

“Oh yes. This side of the highway is the Snobsville ghetto I’m afraid!” She was smiling as she rambled. “No kidding, when the real estate agent showed us this house he warned us it was on the wrong side of the highway and that we may lose on property value if we cross the ghetto line. Or words to that effect. He also said the area was known for its clusters of town houses. That’s not a good thing in Snobsville.” I could see she was only half joking, but given our home was in the ghetto too I felt comfortable enough to give a wry smile.

“Well, I guess we made a bad decision moving here then! We’re not far away from here.”

Caroline became serious again. “Yes, I saw on the class list. Your street is in a great spot, you got in just in time. The values there can only go up.” I think she meant it as a compliment, so I decided to take it as such. “Have you seen the house with the big red door two streets over?”

“Yes, I think so. With the old couple?”

“Swingers.”

“What?”

“Yep. This is the thriving heart of Snobsville’s seemy underbelly. There are a bunch of randy old swingers in this neighbourhood. Saturday morning they are MAMIL’s – middle aged men in lycra – sitting at the café drinking tea. But Saturday night they’re at the Jacuzzi in the house with the big red door. Leave your keys in the bowl!” We laughed together, and for the first time I felt comfortable in Snobsville.

“Aiden has an older sister Luke tells me?”

“Yes. Madison. She’s nine. And how old is this little angel?”

“Layla. She’s three months.”

“Oh, she is devine. Truly. And you look amazing!” She paused. “You know Marley I should warn you of something before you find out from someone else.”

I was intrigued. “What’s that?”

She sighed. “I’m a labour voter.”

“Oh, God, I thought it was something serious!”

“Honey, that’s as serious as it gets around here. There aren’t many of us around.”

“Caroline, I’m a labour voter too.”

“Fantastic! My husband, Ashley, he’s a dentist, he doesn’t like me to mention it. But sometimes it’s better just to get it over with rather than have an awkward conversation, you know?”

“Yes. A dentist?”

“Yes. Well, an orthodontist actually. Braces and retainers.”

“Wow.”

“Makes for pretty boring conversation, I know. So what does your husband do?”

“Jason is a software developer.”

“What type?”

“You know, I don’t really know.”

“Oh, honey, you’ll fit right in here.”

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