It was a beautiful day and the scenery was spectacular. Everybody had their camera in hand trying to catch the beauty of the moment. Obviously, nobody was a professional photographer and, to top it all, the sun was facing them which made the phone screens very dark. Anyway, they randomly took pictures. Even if the pics were astounding, many chirped it didn’t look as good as it really was. So, gradually, more and more women stopped taking pics and just enjoyed the moment; not to mention the obvious chat that was quite constant within these women.
“Once more, the organization of this hike is just perfect. Thank you so much Olivia.”
A few other women took this opportunity to thank their leader again, voices echoing in Dolby surround.
Every Friday morning, for the last six years, Olivia had organized these hikes. Not all of them, of course, she was sometimes busy or away, but most of them and anyway, she always found a volunteer to replace her when she couldn’t come herself.
There was a bunch of regulars who knew each other so well, some for years now. There were also new people; and some who were becoming regulars, little by little. Every week, the group was different but the friendly, welcoming and open-minded atmosphere never missed a single hike.
Two women could not stop chatting. But they were far from being the only ones. During the hikes, you could talk passionately about anything; even if opinions diverged. In fact, it was because opinions diverged that the women found these conversations stimulating and over-interesting. Nobody never blamed someone for having said something they disagreed with. This kind of people, blaming others, usually did not show up very often. They were probably shocked by the freedom of expression, did not enjoy it and vanished. But a few came back, and were accepted all the same. The group was not the kind who even noticed these behaviours.
Augustine and Vicky had met about a year before. These two were talking about babies but a song perfectly fitting the moment interrupted the conversation.
“C’est là que je voudrais vi-vre”. Augustine sang cheerfully. It reverberated in the side of the hill. “Do you know that film, Vicky?”
“No, I don’t. But you seem to enjoy that line.” Vicky vibed back slightly laughing.
“It’s from a very famous film adapting a famous novel by Marcel Pagnol. Do you know Marcel Pagnol?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Oh! Well, he’s very famous for depicting Southern France. He was a writer and he also produced movies. This is from La gloire de mon père, meaning “My father’s glory”. It’s about a young boy, living in a city. His father is a teacher. And over the summer break, they move to a house in the hills of Provence. And his father’s glory is to hunt birds called bartavelles. But when his mother says she wishes to live in the hills, she is fabulous. Really fabulous. I love when the actress sings this line with a huge smile. What a great childhood memory of one’s mother!”
“Oh, I should watch the film then.”
“I do recommend it. One of my favourites.”
“I wonder if I will raise my kids in a city or in the countryside…”
“Aren’t you moving to New York soon?”
“Yes, but I may not stay there…”
“Are you planning to have kids soon?” inquired Augustine.
“No, I’m still young. You see, I got married quite young and all my friends were telling me I was too young for such a decision. So, I still have time before I have kids. You know, my family also told me I was too young…” Vicky kept on moaning about her wedding.
“But, how old were you?”
“What? People bothered you because you got married at 21?!! You sounded like you got married at 16 or so. 21 is a normal age to get married.”
“Yes, and now that I am here, I’m 25 now; I am missing all the weddings back there in the States. All my childhood friends are getting married now.” Vicky sounded a bit sad about missing all these celebrations.
“All at the same time?” Augustine inquired.
“That’s absolute nonsense. 21 is too young and then ready, steady, go, you’re 25 now, hurry up, get married.” They laughed, especially because Augustine sounded like she was really giving the start for a race; especially with this huge voice of hers.
“I mean at least you had the sense to do what felt right. And, as far as I am concerned you seem happy with your husband.”
“I am”, Vicky answered without hesitation, as an immutable fact that would never be questioned.
“That’s what matters. Do you think some of your friend are getting married with someone who is not their Mister perfect just because they are 25?”
“I cannot tell. It’s so ridiculous!”
“Yes, indeed!” Augustine concluded. They both started daydreaming, enjoying the view once more. It was so perfect.
“You know, having babies is a bit similar. I had my kids ten years ago, and the social pressure is mad. At the time, we were quite poor, and we were receiving all these useless gifts that we did not ask for…. So, for my second one, we thought it would be a good idea to ask for what we really needed: like an hour of a cleaning lady, a home-delivered meal or an osteopathy consulting … Things like that. We have our tastes, you know. Not everybody is the same. People had different reactions. Let’s say some people were so happy they could give us a gift we would really appreciate but others were really upset …”
“But why were they upset?” Vicky was in a state between surprise and curiosity.
“I don’t know. As far as I know, they enjoy shopping. The gift is mainly for them.”
“That’s so ridiculous! Do you really think so?” Vicky was slightly shocked now…
“I don’t know. You know… All these clothes worn only twice because the baby is growing so fast. Well, I’ve had big babies, they wore them for a very short time. I am probably biased on that one. Do you have another explanation?”
“Well, I must admit I don’t. These baby shops are full of gadgets, aren’t they? I am not sure you need all this to raise a baby.”
“Oh! I’m so glad hearing what you just said. It’s almost gadgets only… Do you know the cartoon Inspector Gadget?” asked Augustine beginning to sing its main theme song … “It was very famous when I was a kid. Obviously, you’re younger. Does it ring any bell at all?”
“You never miss an opportunity to sing, do you? You’re like Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act!”
“You are so nice. Love this always-happy Sister. I love this film. Many songs… Anyway… Actually, you know, you don’t need much to raise a baby. We were lucky we were poor. We couldn’t afford these things. So …”
“We were lucky we were poor…” Vicky pondered on that one, repeating it on a low voice.
“So, when you’re poor and you’re buying something, you really think, do I really need this? And most of the time, the answer is no ―or not in this shop. When I was pregnant with my first child, I used to read these magazines they give you at the hospital. There was so much you needed, I felt I will not manage with my baby. In both families, we were the first of our generation to have kids on both sides of the family. We only had a couple of friends we could ask for advice. And you know what my husband did?”
“He sung a lullaby, maybe?”
“Oh, come on! I only like Ella Fitzgerald’s… But I learnt how to like the others while rocking my babies… Anyway, what I wanted to say is that my husband took all the magazines and put them to the bin.”
“No, come on, he didn’t.” Vicky couldn’t help laughing while pooh-poohing it.
“Yes, he did. And I felt much better afterwards. You can’t imagine how much propaganda works. Especially when you are alone. My husband had been transferred to France and we had to move two weeks before I gave birth; so, we knew absolutely nobody. These magazines convince you it is really hard to raise a baby. While it’s the most natural thing in the world!
So, we just had the bare minimum and now I can say it’s much more convenient. For instance, we had been offered a big bath with a baby bath recliner. It took all the space in the bathroom and my baby hated it. To top it all, when it was full of water, it was awfully heavy and I had to empty it with a plastic tube. It’s not so easy to do while you are rocking a baby at the same time. In the end, my baby baths were in the sink. The baby liked it best and it took no space and it was easy to empty.”
“And you were saving water for the planet!”
“Good point…. So, why the bother?”
“Oh! I so agree with you”, Ki had caught them up. “My babies only liked baths in the sinks. Hated the big bath too. We had to sell it.”
“See… I had to sell most of the presents I have been given. I am really sorry for those who made the presents but it is so true. At least, I had a little money to buy what I really wanted.” Augustine boasted.
“You know, these big pushchairs”, Ki added. “We were offered a very expensive one. You know the big ones.”
“Oh! Yes, they can be so expensive…” Augustine insisted.
“How expensive?” asked Vicky, who was planning somehow to have a baby sooner or later and wanted more info.
“I don’t know now. My kids are 13 and 15 now. But it was more than 1000 CHF.” Ki remembered.
“What? That’s more than expensive, that’s out of the galaxy!” Vicky exclaimed, out of the blue.
“And they are bad! The one we’ve been offered; my daughter fell down. It never happened with the Maclaren I bought myself. Never. I used the big one two weeks and then sold it to buy several things. This opened my eyes: expensive doesn’t mean good”, Ki concluded.
“I agree, and some, at that price are in plastic! It’s not even robust.” Augustine held up.
“And they take so much space”, Ki went on, “you have to plan where you go. And a buy a bigger car to have a bigger boot. And, so heavy too. With my Maclaren, I could carry the pushchair and the baby though long flight of stairs as it was light, or just use them backwards for a few stairs. You can’t do that with the huge expensive ones….”
“And the thing, you can put the baby car seat on your pushchair, such a bad idea… The baby is not supposed to stay in the baby car seat for long, I think it ruins his back or makes flat head, something like that, I don’t remember well; so why would you keep it in there? And it is so heavy to carry around” Augustine was so happy to remember this time of her life and all she learnt about consumption that she could go on forever…
“I just used a portage scarf. This doesn’t wake the baby up. It’s so happy to be on Daddy’s or Mommy’s chest. It costs 80CHF. And you can use it as a scarf, a blanket, something to sit on or shadow protection. And of course, to hide the baby while breast feeding …”
“You make me think of Sophia.” Margherita broke into the conversation. “She just had a baby.”
“Oh! Really? That’s so cute,” exclaimed Augustine and Vicky who knew her.
“Why didn’t she tell us, she’s got our phone numbers?”
“I don’t know”, replied Margherita quickly. “She called me instead. But my children are 22 and 25. I don’t really remember. So, I’ve told her what I remembered. She’s rich but she wouldn’t even buy a steriliser for the baby bottles! She grew up in a farm in Russia. She says she’s used to sterilizing bottles for the animals and she just needs a big pan. I don’t understand that. I found the steriliser so convenient! I used to have so many accessories which made life easier. And she doesn’t want them, while she’s got the money; it is so weird!”
“What is convenient for you, is not for her. Obviously, ” Ki noticed.
“I can understand her,” added Augustine. “Sometimes, when you have too many accessories, it is hard work to deal with them. I mean you have to clean them, find a place in the kitchen for them. Find them when you need them. A pan is multifunctional. So, you use it more. You know where to find it and it makes life easier.”
“I’m so glad we are having this conversation, I am learning so much.” Vicky was so grateful. “I think I will have a baby soon.”
“Oh! Fantastic! Are you pregnant,” Ki asked with joy.
“No, no. Just planning to have one or two in the next five years… Nothing specific,” Vicky replied quickly. “Just a long-term project….”
“Are you pregnant?” retorted Ki looking at Augustine’s potbelly.
“No, no,” confessed Augustine. “People leave me their seats in the bus, thinking I am pregnant; and I think they are leaving their seat to my son, which is not the case, and we have some awkward moments in the bus about that. Once a woman told me to my face I shouldn’t leave my seat to my son but to my baby, and that’s when I understood….
Now, I’ve kept this belly since my second pregnancy while I am working out. I wish I had a third baby; maybe that’s why I am keeping this belly. Or, maybe, the belly is a result of what I ate when we were poor: food with too much pesticides and bad additives …Maybe, being poor is not about what you can’t buy but how you can protect your health. I have to grow a garden.”
“Yes, you should.”
– Environmental Health Perspectives – Metabolic Effects of a Chronic Dietary Exposure to a Low-Dose Pesticide Cocktail in Mice: Sexual Dimorphism and Role of the Constitutive Androstane Receptor: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ehp2877/