The fog was heavy on the trees and road, and I pulled my jacket tighter around my neck against the chill. Gorby pulled at the lead, eager to be clipped free and bound about the fens and ferns. At the edge of the woods I freed the beast and stuffed my hands in my pockets. He raced off, jumping madly in the frosty bracken, while I trudged through the cold woods, over the frozen mud, my Wellies and Gorby the only sound around. The mist was heavy, almost no sound getting out, and all I could think of was the day ahead and the morning behind.
My day was completely packed in the morning, the calls relentless of problems that needed fixing. Builders were in the house, working on the fireplaces we are installing to ward against the chill, and I had to get enough done to get out in time to see the twins’ Nativity play. On top of that, the two were dawdling so badly this morning that I lost my temper with them, shouting, only having to apologize for being so grumpy.
Some days it feels as though I never get it right.
I walked further to a settled area in the middle where the fog seemed to lift a bit. A light haze was in the area, and as I heard Gorby crash off into the ferns after some random animal, I heard the soft sound of humming. I continued forward – it’s not unusual to meet other dog walkers in the woods, although it is a bit curious to hear them singing. I continued to the light of the clearing, and stopped at what I saw.
There, in the middle of the woods, was a heavily pregnant woman sitting there, humming. She was dressed in a simple long grey gown, her short dark hair sleek and shiny, her skin perfect. She stopped humming at the sight of me and smiled.
“Hello,” she said.
“Are you ok? Are you lost?”
“I’m not lost. I was looking for you.”
I stop short. “What’s this about?”
“It’s not about anything.”
“Am I being punked?”
“Is this a joke? Did Alastair put you up to this?”
“This is no joke.”
“Right. I’m meant to believe that I can just take the dog for a walk and come across the Virgin Mary hanging out in the nearby woods?”
“Is that unusual?”
“I’m um…I’m not really that big on the Virgin Mary part.”
“Trust me, I’m not so big on it either.”
“I mean, I’m not really religious.”
“Oh. Well then, think of me as Gaia. Or Matsya. Or Freyja. Or Guanyin.”
“Wow. Must be hard to fit all those on your credit cards.”
“It’s a pain, yes.”
“I’ll just go with Gaia. I like Gaia.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
I pause, wondering where the dog has got to. “So, um, do you want to tell me what a deity is doing hanging around our woods on a pretty cold day, very pregnant, and badly dressed for the weather? I get that this is likely a hallucination. I’m ok with that. But in case it’s not, a little detail wouldn’t hurt.”
She smiles, and it warms me considerably. “I was just going for a walk and heard you coming along. I wanted to say hi, in case you were wanting to talk.”
I smile. “I’m good. It’s all good.”
“Really? Because I think I’m here for a reason.”
I stop and ponder it. I move to go sit next to her, and she amiably moves over for me. “It’s hard, actually. I always just want to do the right thing, you know? The right thing for my kids.”
“And you’re not?”
I rub my foot into the ground, moving bits of frost. “I’m pretty good. I think. I think I’m pretty good. This morning I snapped at them and had to apologize.”
“But you apologized.”
I nodded. “Yes, of course. I got it wrong, I had to apologize. I did. I’m not perfect, and I think they know that.”
She nods. “It’s hard being a mother. We only want our children’s happiness above all else, and their health. Sometimes it’s hard to see that we had that for them all along.”
“Hard for you, I guess, if you’re having the son of god. More pressure, unlike me. I mean, I am just working on tying shoelaces with them, you have to go have a Messiah and all.”
“I thought we were going with calling me Gaia?”
“Totally, but your timing really calls for the whole Mary thing. What with Christmas approaching and all. And my kids go to a churchie school, it’s driven home even more.”
She smiles and absent-mindedly rubs her stomach.
“Being pregnant is strange, isn’t it?” I ask her, watching. I wonder if I feel a pang of envy for her or not. I wonder what it is I feel.
“I love it. Didn’t you?”
I shook my head. “No, I was more worried about all of us making it out alive. The only comfort I had was knowing that everywhere I went, so went my two little people with me. It was like never, ever feeling alone for that stretch of 7 months or so. I was very thankful for that feeling, of knowing that the three of us were inseparable.”
“That’s a lovely feeling. Almost like being a mother,” she says, smiling knowingly.
I nod. “It’s not at all weird to see a pregnant lady out here.”
“It’s hard getting out and about. Plus, that whole Will and Kate thing makes me feel a bit obvious.”
I stand up. “Enjoy it. It goes fast. Soon you’ll wonder what happened to the time, what happened to the moments when they couldn’t be anything without you.” I smile. “My two are in a Nativity Play this afternoon, which isn’t at all ironic as I’m here talking to Mary – ”
” – Gaia – ”
” – and I can’t wait to see them. He’s a goat and she’s a shepherd. Isn’t that exciting? He’s a goat and she’s a shepherd. I can’t wait. I really can’t, I hope they know how very proud of them I am, and how very thankful, too. I screw things up a lot, I know I do. I get things wrong but all I hope, all the time, is that they know how very much I love them. Many moments in my life have been amazing, but many of that list are down to these two.”
She smiles at me. “Good luck. Enjoy the play.”
“You too,” I smile back and start to walk away. “Enjoy the time you have with your little boy.”
“I will,” she says.
“After all, I know what you’re going to name him,” I say, joining up with Gorby and walking away.
“Oh yes,” I hear behind me. “He’s going to be called George, after his father.”
I turn around at that, but she’s already gone and the fog is falling again, hiding the logs and ferns all over again.
The Nativity Play was today. Nick was a goat and Nora was a shepherd. In their homemade costumes, they sang and danced with their class. And Nick got to sing a solo of two verses of “Away In a Manger”. It was amazing, and I cried. When it was finished, we had treats of banana milkshakes, their favorite sandwiches, and some sweets. I may get a lot of things wrong, but I am getting those two right.
Many moments in my life have been amazing, and today goes down on that list.