LIFE & THE WADHAMS
A gorgeous new baby is an irresistible excuse to go shopping – for the whole family, it seems!
Baby Ruby Clark opened her mouth in a dainty yawn and blinked sleepily at her grandmother. “Hello, little one.” Polly Wadham smiled down at the small bundle in her arms. “I’m looking after you this morning. Mummy has gone into town – yes, she has – to meet her chums and catch up on the gossip.
“She’s hardly had a minute to herself since you arrived, you know. Not that she minds –” Polly bestowed a fat kiss on the baby’s cheek and smoothed down her red-gold curls – “you’re our little treasure. Yes, you are… And we’re going to have a lovely quiet morning, all to ourselves –”
“Grandma!” Matty’s voice yelled from the kitchen, accompanied by a volley of barks. “Just taking Tyson for his walk. See you soon.” The door banged and Ruby jumped in Polly’s arms.
“That brother of yours!” Polly chuckled. “He doesn’t know the meaning of quiet.” Ruby smiled and blew a bubble – she didn’t care what her brother got up as long as she was warm, dry, fed and loved – and there was plenty of that in the Clark/Wadham household.
The next interruption came from Mike Wadham, who popped his head around the door to inform his wife he was off to the antiques shop he still owned in the centre of town.
“Margery’s off and there’s a lady coming in with a load of stuff she’s cleared from her mother’s house,” he explained. “I don’t want to leave Jennifer to deal with it.” Their elder granddaughter, Ruby’s sister, had proved an able Saturday assistant, but some jobs needed experience. “Will you be all right on your own?”
“Ruby and I will be just fine.” Polly smiled. “Pinky will be back soon, and
I think Jim and Alex are coming home for lunch.”
Her son-in-law and elder grandson were still putting in extra hours at the family garage. Business was good – thank goodness, with this new hungry mouth to feed.
As if on cue, Ruby let out a whimper that her grandma knew would soon turn into a full-blown paddy if she wasn’t fed soon. Fortunately
Pinky had left everything prepared. All Polly had to do was warm the bottle and enjoy the satisfied snuffles of the baby she held so tenderly.
The sound of Pinky’s key in the lock awoke Polly from a light doze a little while later. Baby Ruby was now sleeping peacefully in her Moses basket, Matty was back with his two friends, all up in his room playing computer games, and Tyson lay curled up at Polly’s feet, enjoying a snooze of his own.
Polly stretched and went into the hall, finger on her lips, to meet her daughter.
“Shh! Ruby’s napping.” Then:
“Good grief!” she yelped, ignoring her own instructions. “What on earth have you been buying?”
Well might she ask! The pretty raffia shopper slung over Pinky’s shoulder was full to bursting, while the rolls of paper in her arms were slipping and threatening to spill all over the hallway.
“Bargains!” Pinky beamed. “You know how I always meet Mel at DM Browns’ for coffee. Well, the lift was broken so I went up the escalators and through the household section and saw they were having a sale of old Christmas stuff to make way for this year’s stock.”
“Christmas!” Polly sniffed. “But it’s only September.”
“It was too good a chance to miss,” Pinky defended herself. “These rolls of paper were just fifty pence each, and the cards were a real bargain. Besides, I’ll need to get organised earlier this year – I know I’m on maternity leave but I seem to have less time than ever. I’d forgotten how unpredictable babies were.”
A little cry from the sitting-room confirmed just that – Ruby shouldn’t have stirred for another half-hour.
“Go and put all that unseasonal stuff away before Matty sees it and starts doubting Santa!” Polly rolled her eyes. “I’ll stick the kettle on and see to young madam.”
Pinky grinned. If Polly really believed that eleven-year-old Matty still believed in Santa then she didn’t know who was fooling who!
Polly gathered Ruby gently in her arms and walked gently round the room.
“Christmas in September,” she muttered. “It gets earlier every year. You know Ruby, when your mummy was little, we didn’t even start thinking about Christmas until December 1. Then we’d bring out the Advent calendar and your mummy, Uncle Jonathan and Uncle Drew would take turns opening the little doors to see the pictures behind.
“No chocolate in those days – Advent was about getting ready for baby Jesus.”
Ruby’s eyes screwed up in concentration, for all the world as if she were listening to her grandma’s words.
“We put the tree up the weekend before Christmas, and the children didn’t make their lists until Christmas Eve – although Santa had a good idea what they wanted.” Polly chuckled. “There were bikes and books and chemistry sets and Lego – but never dollies or prams. Your mum was such a tomboy! Your grandpa and I could never have imagined she’d grow up and give us four beautiful grandchildren. We are so blessed –”
Then Polly had to laugh as the blessed child gave a loud burp and deposited a trail of half-digested milk over her shoulder.
The following Wednesday, Polly met two of her friends from her local church at DM Brown’s café as usual. The lift had been fixed so she was able to bypass the Christmas sale goods.
But what on earth? The entrance to the café sported an artificial Christmas tree and a placard declaring the opening of the Christmas gift shop in a few weeks.
“I don’t know what has got into everyone these days,” she tutted to Marnie. “I know working parents don’t have loads of spare time, but even so … Christmas in September!”
Marnie agreed. “I was in the newsagent this morning and they’re selling all these glossy Christmas magazines.”
“My granddaughter has informed me she’d like a Peppa Pig toy from Santa,” Alison chimed in. “She’s only four, but she’s already seeing adverts on TV.”
“Shocking.” The trio shook their heads – none of them wanted to be the fuddyduddy to say it wasn’t like that in our day.
“It’s not even Hallowe’en,” Polly pointed out. “Why we can’t keep the seasons to their correct place and time, I don’t know. Well, I shan’t buy presents until December, no matter how tempting the displays. Who’d like another scone?”
Watered and fed, the friends chatted happily before heading to the lift.
“I’ll just pop in to the children’s department on our way down,” Alison said. “All this talk of Christmas has almost made me forget that it’s little Tom’s birthday next week. He has so many toys, I’m going to be Mrs Sensible Granny and get him clothes this year.”
“I’ll come with you.” Ruby didn’t need anything, but Polly loved an excuse to look at all the dainty baby dresses.
“Oh my!” She caught her breath as they came out of the lift and into the childrenswear area. “How sweet would Ruby look in that?”
An hour later she let herself guiltily into the house, hoping to sneak up the stairs before Pinky saw her. Too late!
“Come for a cuppa before you go up, Mum,” Pinky called from the kitchen.
Mike was already there, cuddling Ruby as Pinky made tea.
“What have you been buying?” he asked, spotting the DM Browns’ bag.
“Nothing.” Polly blushed. “Well, just a little thing…”
“Let’s see.” Mike Wadham knew his wife was no good at keeping secrets – especially from him. He drew the bag towards him and pulled out a minuscule orange striped baby-gro, padded to look like a pumpkin. A matching hat had a little green felt leaf attached. He raised his eyebrows, perplexed.
“A Hallowe’en outfit?” Pinky caught on right away. “Mum, it’s only September – Hallowe’en’s weeks and weeks away.” She laughed fondly. “What happened to your mantra of keeping the seasons to their own time and place?”
“They might have sold out!” Polly tried to defend herself but had to laugh. “I got the bigger size – I know she’ll sprout in the next few weeks. She’ll look so sweet in it.”
She didn’t tell them she intended to return next week to pick up the gorgeous little baby-girl Santa outfit she’d seen on display… before they all sold out, too!
“It’s not even Hallowe’en. Can’t we keep seasons to their place?”