After pilates today it was Maddy's turn to treat the rest of us (Jo, Sue, Valerie and myself) to lunch at her home. And she prepared a delicious meal, washed down - of course - by plenty of white wine and soda water! Meanwhile Maddy's husband was repairing a garage door outside, and her two grown-up sons, who run a business together, dropped by to fix something else. The three men did not however intrude on us.
Of course we were all talking merrily around the table, and I chatted quite a bit with Valerie, who was sitting next to me. She is about ten years older, although she doesn't look it. Afterwards Valerie and I found ourselves looking at some baby pictures on a table at the front end of the house. The baby must have been Maddy's daughter's. They were very good pictures, and they caught my attention.
Valerie noticed my interest, and - understanding by now that I was childless - asked me whether I regretted never having any children of my own. It was a natural question to ask, and I felt no surprise at her asking it, but I was quite unprepared for the emotion that came over me. 'Yes,' I replied, but could not say more. She gave me a look, and saw that I was actually getting wet eyes. 'Let's join the others in the kitchen,' I said, needing a distracting moment or two to get myself in hand again. But in the kitchen Maddy immediately noticed that I was not my usual bubbly self. 'I'm sorry,' I said, drying my eyes, 'I'm really all right...' Well, they all clustered around, and gave me hugs, and my sad moment very quickly passed. Nobody referred to it again that afternoon, but I apologised later to Maddy for letting this happen. She insisted that one person's wobbly moment is everyone's wobbly moment, and that is what friends do for each other.
I couldn't agree more.
Strange that I had that moment of pain, though. Genuinely, I have never at any point in my life wanted a family. And I've considered myself completely immune to baby photos - meaning that I could admire them, but they were not going to make me see myself as a thwarted mother. Perhaps Valerie's simple question awakened something.
I wonder what else lies dormant within, and may emerge as these new friendships of mine develop?