Whispers in the morning

Confessions2

In a tiny town such as the one where this particular baby boutique was based, the same familiar faces were often churned up in the daily grind. No one was more memorable however, than the lady who features in my next story…

 

Nestled next to the children’s shop was a quaint tea house that made its fortune though yummy mummy caffeine doses and senior specials. It was on my first working weekday that I was going about my morning routine when I heard a high-pitched sound surfacing from outside. After ignoring it for a second or two, I was coerced into caring when it grew several decibels, and it dawned on me that it was someone attempting to sing. Regrettably this voice was neither soothing nor relaxing, but once I had conquered the initial prickly pierce to the ears it was somewhat entertaining.

I wandered over to the window in an attempt to see from whom this jumbled up version of Fly Me To The Moon was coming from. I’m not entirely sure of where my expectations existed, but they certainly weren’t to be found in the image I was about to set eyes on… A white haired lady dressed in a polka dot patterned dress and soft soled shoes. Contently she sat with her mug of tea, oblivious to the stares of the other, calmer, coffee morning customers.

After watching her for a while, attempting to guess her choice of song every time a new melody hit the airwaves – a much meaner feat that it sounds – I noticed that I was the only local who had been distracted by this ruckus. This, and a few consecutive days of being presented with the same act,informed me that this was no alien presence of a weekday morning. This lady, whether one liked it or not, came hand in hand with the OAP coffee break.

I also quickly learnt that her morning routine would include an amble around my shop. She would open the door, I would greet her, she would ignore me, but she would murmur tales of a troubled past beneath her breath. Besides her piercing warbles, these whispers were the only thing I would ever hear leave her mouth. It was perhaps her only means of stopping the memories, for when she wasn’t whispering she would sing, and when she wasn’t singing she would whisper, there was never a moment of silence in between.

She would go from garment to garment, grazing fine velour with greasy fingers and often leaving traces of ketchup behind. Then she would walk away ahead of audible trails of wind, prompting me to realise why there was a can of air freshener behind the till.

Until one day she stopped. Her clockwork routine was no longer inclusive of me or my efforts of cleaning in her wake. I must say it was a relief. Nevertheless, to this day she still attends every coffee morning, eats her over 60’s special and sings. Some days fairly loudly, other days rather softly, I guess it depends on how haunting her whispers are that day.

Forget me not.

confessions1

I started my first retail job in a children’s shop at the innocent age of sixteen. Apart from having to tidy up after masses of misbehaving little ones, it became the norm of a Saturday job for a teenager funding her first summer holiday away from the eyes of a watchful parent or two. As was expected, I witnessed the odd tantrum, whether it was courtesy of a little girl not getting the party dress that she wanted, or a boisterous toddler not in appreciation of the smart outfit he had to wear for a weekend wedding in the country. Nevertheless this story comes from a new mother not quite keeping her eye on the ball, or her baby for that matter…

 

The boutique’s tumbling displays stretched around a wooden playpen. As was a mother’s prerogative to shop, so was a child’s to be entertained whilst waiting.

The playpen was filled with various second hand toys that reminded me of my childhood; the Fisher Price phone, the Playmobil house and a pack of wobbling Weebles.

After browsing for some time, the latest dithering stressed mother had decided to go for a coffee and return caffeine fuelled and decision made. I thanked her and went about tidying the chaos she’d left in her indecisiveness.

As I wandered towards the aforementioned mess I noticed the strap of a handbag snaking across the floor. Quickly seizing the bag, I ran out the door to see if I could set eyes upon its owner. She was, of course, nowhere to be seen. Ambling back into the shop I bent down to place it behind the counter in the hope that she would realise and return to collect it. As I did so, a noise emanated from behind me, in the direction of the playpen. I slowly stood up and turned around with trepidation to come face to face with a smiling toddler chewing on Mr Potato Head’s arm.

Panic washed over me as I wondered if the woman had expected a complimentary babysitting service alongside her coffee and decision time.

Nevertheless, amidst my horror and alarm, the little bright-eyed toddler was seemingly unbothered by the fact his mother had walked away without him, and more concerned that Mr Potato Head’s body wouldn’t completely fit in his dribbling mouth.

After what felt like a lifetime, but actually transpired to be just ten minutes, a panic stricken mother ran into the shop at full speed.

“My baby, my baby, I am so so sorry!”

“He’s fine” I replied, hauling his body out of the playpen as she took hold of his face, simultaneously inspecting him and giving him kisses in a bid to wipe away the guilt.

“You left your handbag too” I said, gesturing towards the bag I had found.

Embarrassed, she walked over to pick up the handbag and placed it on her toddler’s pushchair. After apologising profusely, she paid for her gift and went to open the door, checking she had all her belongings tucked up safely into the buggy. As her foot touched the pavement, she gave a knowing smile, rolled her eyes and came back to my side of the counter.

I somewhat begrudgingly passed the child into her arms as she apologised again and strapped him into his seat. As she left I couldn’t help but worry about what little adventure he may be subjected to next.