There is a magpie that appears to be shadowing me.
Since I moved out of the city to my new suburban home, every time I leave my house with my baby daughter I see it.
On the way to playgroup to try and make friends in this unfamiliar neighbourhood, there it is, pecking the grass beside the pavement.
As I am walking to the shops each day to buy food for that evening’s meal, something I spread out all week just to give myself a reason to leave the house each day, it swoops over me and lands on a wall.
I even saw it while I was pegging washing on the line, squawking ominously above me from the branch of a tree in the garden next door.
In case you don’t know the old rhyme, seeing a single magpie means, “One for sorrow.”
“One for sorrow, two for joy. Three for a girl, four for a boy. Five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret that’s never been told.”
Maybe it’s not always the same magpie but they’re not a friendly bunch round here. I only ever see them alone.
Here is my secret. I feel alone.
I miss my job. I miss going to an office everyday and seeing the same people, making small talk about the day’s headlines, the dripping tap in the loo that’s still not fixed, moaning about that telephone bore who is impossible to get rid of, and joking about who managed to get a free coffee at Pret.
I miss my friends. My friends I’ve known for years and live so far away, who knew me before I was a mother, before my conversation became stuck in a cycle of weaning recipes, teething solutions and sleep patterns.
And I miss my new friends that I met at baby groups with my daughter and bonded with over all the new and overwhelming experiences of parenthood we shared, before I moved away and had to start all over again.
I miss a door that opened up my whole life onto the world and made me feel free, before a wall of parenthood came down and boxed me in.
And I miss my own mother, who is always there at the end of the phone but can’t give me a hug to let me know everything will be okay.
Moving to this new place, shackled to my pram and knowing nobody has been a lot more challenging than I expected.
But as the weeks ticked by we’ve been going to groups and started meeting other mothers.
Even though at first it seemed like we had nothing in common, they have been kind and supportive over shared problems and seeing our babies develop alongside one another.
And gradually bits of our personalities have begun to peep through, like baby teeth emerging from where they were hiding beneath dribble and cries.
And I have started to feel not just a mum, but a person again.
I have even been invited to the pub by a group of mothers, not as my daughter’s plus one, but for my own company!
After a playgroup session this week I walked through the park with some of the other women, processing along with our buggies, and exchanging chit chat about our children and also ourselves.
As we turned onto the road to head home I saw that magpie perched on the kerb, eyeing me.
“Another magpie!”, I sighed aloud, “They always seem to be on their own round here.”
“No, look”, said one of my new found friends, as another black and white bird hopped out from behind a bush.
“There are two. ‘Two for joy.'”