I was nervous on the day of Charlton’s birthday party. Although Luke was becoming increasingly confident in his new surrounds, it hadn’t been as easy for me to make friends as it was for my 4 year old. He was proving to be quite popular with the boys in his class, though I had noticed the disapproving murmurs from the other mums when he was in one of his more rambunctious moods. I had always found his energy infectious, as did the other boys, but this opinion does not appear to be shared by everyone.
I woke to an empty bed – Jason had already left for a breakfast meeting, promising to be home sometime this afternoon so our weekend could begin in earnest. I lay in bed mentally sifting through my rather scant closet and thinking through what I would wear to a Snobsville pre schooler’s party. Luke came in early, bounding with enthusiasm and dressed in his superman costume we had thrown together last night. It had been an exercise in creativity that stretched our superhero imaginations.
We teamed his blue pyjama pants with red underwear over the top, a blue t-shirt on which we had sticky-taped a giant red felt S to, (the felt I found in the Christmas decoration box where we kept the plastic tree), and a cardboard red mask which he had painted with blobs of blue glitter and stuck with a few of my hair ties roped together. I was quite pleased with the end result – themed birthday parties were not common for four year olds in our previous neighbourhood and I wasn’t keen on buying an outfit for one party.
I had quite a challenge subduing Luke for the three hours until the party started – he swooped gleefully around the lounge room humming the star wars theme, (which I imagine he believes is a theme song for all superhero types).
My outfit was not so easy. I had made the mistake of under dressing to most of the social events I had been to thus far, (which consisted of pre school pick ups and rugby matches). In my former life I had owned a gym, so clothing had never been much of a decision for me. In Snobsville, the residents were always so beautifully dressed. I was at a loss. And my wardrobe was considerably lacking in anything other than jeans and a few pairs of thongs.
I owned one pair of heels, (I had bought them for a business dinner I had gone to with Jason years ago), that still almost fitted after my most recent pregnancy. So the rest would have to work with that. Then I chose my nicest pair of jeans and a plain white t-shirt with my one couture purchase since we moved – my black puffa vest, (which was now relish free). I touched the luxuriously puffy fabric and smiled. I had to admit that part of me was enjoying the move.
We arrived at the party exuding nervous anticipation, and were greeted at the door by a tall, graceful woman with blonde hair.
“Hi! You must be Marlon. Welcome! I’m Elizabeth.”
“Hi. Um, it’s Marley.”
“Oh! Sorry, Lovely name. And this is Lucas?”
“Well. Come on in. There are a few guests out the back.”
We were directed out to a large undercover outdoor entertaining area which spilled onto a perfectly manicured lawn dotted with an array of colourful flowers in various stages of bloom. At the far end of the lawn was a tennis court with a small building and a large swimming pool. I must have looked visibly impressed. Luke was off playing with a blur of superhero boys all dressed in perfectly tailored shiny new superhero oufits, (definitely not homemade). I searched frantically for Caroline, to no avail. A small group of women huddled around a coffee table, seated neatly on a white outdoor couch. I was on my own, no back up in sight, but I had to go in. It was now or never. I picked up Layla and lugged her capsule over to the couch. As I walked I scanned the scene for a seat, a way in. No luck.
“Hi. I’m Luke’s mum. Marley.”
They turned and smiled at me, sizing me and my child up and down. I could see why. Despite my best efforts I did not fit in. They all wore an assortment of crisp white capris and neatly fitting coloured jeans. Dainty ballet flats and not a puffa vest in sight. Perfectly casual. As if they barely considered what to wear at all. Is it possible I was overdressed? I was silently devastated. Why did I feel like a teenage girl again?
For a moment no one spoke.
“Hi Marley. I’m Brita.”
She shifted over to allow me some room and we sat in silence for a while. I surveyed the backyard in more detail – the oversized blue and red lolly bags lined perfectly on a table with toys spilling out of the top. The themed table cloth, balloons and colour co-ordinated food. The gift table piled with what I hope was professionally wrapped presents. I looked down at my own paltry offering and was almost too embarrassed to include it on the table.
The ladies went back to their conversation and I listened for an entry. Holidays in Europe. No, nothing to add there. New hair dresser – or follicle artist. Nope, no dice. Private schools. I had heard this conversation in the playground at pick up but hadn’t gleaned enough information to contribute confidently as yet. Brita came to my rescue.
“So who’s this little one?”
I smiled gratefully. “Layla. She’s three months old.”
“Oh, she’s darling. Isn’t she lovely girls?”
One of the ‘girls’ turned and smiled politely. “Yes she really is lovely. What a sweet little outfit. So Luke is four like the other boys?”
“Yes. He’s quite a handful! But I suppose all four year olds are.”
“Mmmmm. Quite an age gap though isn’t it? I always thought it was best to have them closer together. You know, so they don’t argue too much.”
Another responded. “Oh no, Sarah, it’s all different now. Haven’t you read the latest research?” She continued without waiting for an answer. “They say four years is the perfect age gap. For the brightest kids who achieve the most success in life.”
The first woman seemed unimpressed. “Well I guess that means you have a little longer till you have to start trying. God, that’s a stress I don’t need. We are thinking of going for number three, but then I have to, you know…well, Ben has to be home enough for that first I suppose.”
At last! An opportunity. I mustered my courage before I could chicken out or someone else could interrupt. “Oh, you have two?”
“Yes. Sarsha is with the nanny. This is mummy time.” She turned away. “You know, I heard Charlton already has a loose tooth. Elizabeth says he could lose it any day.”
“Oh my. “
Elizabeth appeared from nowhere with a tray of champagne glasses. “Yes. My boy is quite dentally advanced!”
The other women laughed.
“Guava and bubbles ladies? The petting zoo should be arriving soon, so we shouldn’t hear from the kids for a while.”
The shrill tones of Caroline’s voice lilted through the air. “Don’t mind if I do! Hello girls. Sorry we’re late. Aiden couldn’t decide between Buzz Lightyear and the Green Lantern.” She winked at me as I wondered inwardly what a Green Lantern was.
“I see you’ve met Marley. Her husband’s in software, isn’t he Marley?”
I breathed a sigh of relief and grabbed a glass.
“Oh! Well Snobsville may be the only place in the world where that makes him interesting in amongst the lawyers and bankers,” laughed Brita. I was becoming used to removing the barbs from compliments as they passed me by.
“Oh I don’t know about that. To be honest I have no idea what he really does.” Caroline smiled at me. The other ladies laughed.
“Oh darling. None of us do,” piped up Brita. She clinked her glass to mine in a subtle display of solidarity. “By the way I do like the puffa vest. I had one just like it last season.”
Well, it was a start.