I was out meandering with the kids last week. We'd just made it up past the first (of seven) castles and second (of Christ only knows how many) churches in the village when a woman hailed us from across the street. We waited, and she approached us with kids that looked much the same ages as Jonah and Lucas, although girl-flavoured.
It turns out she'd bought the same pushchair as us (the Phil&Teds e-3, pop pickers) and had a question about folding it. Because I am an idiot, I got halfway to demonstrating how to manipulate the damn thing ("and then you twizzle the little knobs and ta-da! the seat hinges and collapses on top of the other seat") when I remembered that I had two small boys occupying said seat(s). Brightest button in the box award going to me today, for sure.
Anyway, during the course of the conversation it emerged that this woman and her family moved here 2 days ago from overseas. We said goodbye, I pointed in the vague direction of our house in case she had any future pushchair-related problems and sauntered off with the wee ones towards the greengrocer to irritate the Maeve-Binchy-novel-made-real ladies of the village as we jammed the behemoth that is the Phil&Teds into the ankle-width aisle.
As we shopped, I was struck with a remembrance of last year, when we moved here from the US. We didn't know a soul, and Jonah and I were both quite quickly in urgent need of company beside each other. It rained the entire sodding summer, putting the kibosh on our "it's easier to move in summer because you get to meet people out and about" plan, and in fact most plans, really. I made an awful lot of horribly bold-feeling overtures to friendly-seeming mothers at library story times, playgrounds, and, yup, outside the greengrocer.
Making friends as an adult is in no way less cringe-inducing and nerve-wracking than as a teenager, except you don't have the self-handicap of the bad fashion mistakes and the bubble perm. What spurred me on, what was worse than rejection, was the idea of spending the next god-knows-how-many years with no social contact.
A year on, my "I am new - please be my friend" neon sign has faded somewhat. Life is liable to be too busy these days rather than too quiet and a few of those cold-call type approaches have morphed, bit by bit, into solid, funny, cool, happy friendships. Still, somewhere between the bananas and the grapes, it occurred to me way too late that I could have/should have given P&T Woman my number. Being the one always having to make the effort can be an exhausting part of a relocation and, God knows, a relocation is exhausting to begin with. But of course, at this point, she was nowhere in sight (and if she HAD popped out in between the Chiquitas and the White Seedless, I'd have thought she was an absolute nutter and second-guessed the number-giving, doubtless).
We finished up our various errands (messages, as the Irish call them) and were trundling our way to the local indie coffee shop. Jonah, like the good Seattle-born kid he is, had requested a coffee stop and who am I to deny him? As we rounded the corner towards Mugs, we saw P&T Woman again. So we stopped, and, reminding myself that I was aiming for Friendly Neighbour mode rather than Random Stalker, I suggested that we swap numbers.
There's no Hollywood ending to this. Neither she nor I called the next day, discovered that we had more in common than if we were identical twins separated at birth, and have spent every moment since exclaiming that we don't know how we got on in life without the other. This is one of those stories that doesn't round off neatly with a "and then they all lived happily ever after". But, y'know, that wasn't really the point anyway. I dunno, so many people have been genuinely, without prompting, just plain nice to us over the last few years (and the last few moves) that I couldn't see any harm in overcoming the Great English Reserve (bloody English, huh) and offering the contact. And it made me happy for a good while, too, so there's that. And that, my friends, will have to be enough.