Slowly I drive backwards, manoeuvring carefully to avoid pre-schoolers at large. The parking lot is small and spilling over. In the rear I pause, needing to change gear for the car and myself. Before I can accelerate I see a car in front of me slowly backing towards me. I wait. The cars pulls further back, and further. Does she not see me? Really? My hands flap around the wheel, should I honk, pull back quickly? But anything could be behind me and before I can decide I feel a thud. We collide, bumper to bumper. In the car in front of me I see a silhouette, still, bend over the wheel, cupping her face. Then, she gets out. She apologises, extensively. I smile, don’t worry about it. Nervously she studies my bumper, looking for marks. I see plenty. But not on the bumper she just grazed. She keeps apologising and I keep dismissing, keep smiling. After a while she finds a tiny crack in the number plate. She asks for a pen, paper, and whether I want her number, for damages. I smile again and point at all the scratches, bigger than hers. If it even is hers. I’ll find you, I say, if my stricter husband thinks otherwise. She nods at me, desperately. Or tell me your name, I say, to make her feel better. She is Mary, mum of Henry in the blue group.
On the way home I keep smiling. Why do mothers lose their brains in the chaos of every day? Pregnancy brain, we like to call it, but it does not leave your body when the baby does. I turn all my own incidents over in my brain. The car I brushed by at the petrol station, already late for school. The side mirror I hit on a car by the side of the road, distracted by a screaming back seat. To which I returned, blushing with shame, an hour later with a windscreen note. A birthday party for Tijm’s friend that I simply forgot. My mobile phone, of which I now have two, identical, ones, after I lost it not once, twice or even trice last year. And found again. The times I drove happily to little gym, until Tijm asked whether we should not pick up Linde from the child-minder first. And so it goes on, and on, and on. I am surprised I have not yet lost a child.
When a mother hears a child, in the supermarket, screaming, wailing and kicking, she only thinks one thought. Thankfully. It is not mine. That is exactly how I felt when Mary bumped my bumper today. Thankful. It wasn’t me. At least. Not today.