My family and I recently moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Bradford-on-Avon, England, for a year. Our mission: try out life at a slower pace. In my new series Brooklyn to England, I'll write about the weekly adventures of living in the English countryside with my British husband, our three-year-old daughter, and my baby-bump (I'm due in September!). Come with me as I go from strollers to prams, diapers to nappies, and whatever else it takes to raise a family abroad.
English mummies sing like angels. Not to say that we Brooklyn moms squawk in comparison, but when Trixie and I went to the library to check out Rhyme Time, a mommy-and-me sing-along, inching our way into a circle of grinning women in sundresses and ballet flats, gently crooning to the cherubic tots bouncing delicately on their knees, there was something, well, magical about it.
I had to hear them again … and, so, a weekly routine was born.
Every Thursday, after brekkie, Trixie and I trample down Mount Everest, aka Conigre Hill. Trixie blithely flies straight down, but after falling and badly scraping my knee the other day, then being told by a passerby that “it can get slippery after it rains” (thanks, mom), I have learned to proceed with caution. Eventually, my speed demon and I get into town, strolling through the colorful Farmers Market in the library parking lot. For a minute we stop outside the blah-for-such-an-historic-town building that houses books on the first floor and the Bradford on Avon museum upstairs. (I like a building that can multitask). The mood is so charming and local-dy docal-dy, you wouldn’t think we’d need to prepare ourselves before entering the building, but we do.
Because Rhyme Time. Is. Rammed.
In order to snag a coveted spot in the children’s section, we must first wade through 20 all-terrain strollers in the entryway and then not step on at least a dozen newborn babies. Harder than it sounds, for a three-year-old and a woman whose growing belly overshadows her feet.
“Hellooo boys and girls!” warbles the librarian, a lovely old woman with the voice of Julia Child and the temperament of Mary Poppins. Babies drool and gurgle in response. I’m definitely aware of the fact that Trixie is on the older side of the Rhyme Time audience. Occasionally I see another three- or four-year-old, but only if they’re accompanying a younger sibling. At first I was self-conscious about it, but it’s not like we have any other pressing engagements on Thursday mornings. In fact, it’s all we’ve got going for us.
Mums and babies settle down and Julia Poppins leafs through her playbook, zig-zagging from one unfamiliar nursery rhyme to another—songs like Wind the Bobbin Up, Miss Polly Had A Dolly, and one that seems to terrify the kids about a monkey-eating crocodile. They’re not unfamiliar songs to everyone else, just me. The American. The one with T's pronounced like D's, and the sharp, flat A's that are ruining the celestial choir of English mums. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, mumbling and flailing along with the hand gestures, but, eh, whatever. I have a three-year-old—I’m used to embarrassing myself in public on her behalf.
In the blink of an eye, babies are having meltdowns and we’re singing the goodbye song. Sadly, Rhyme Time can’t last forever. It ends, but nobody rushes for the door; departures are leisurely. Friends chat with friends, mums change nappies on little throw rugs shaped like open books. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone, that is, except me. I’m not even sure how I’d start a conversation, considering I’ve brought a three-and-a-half-year-old to a sing along for infants. So, with our scooter and library books in tow, Trixie and I head back into the market. We buy a slice of carrot cake to share; then sometimes we head down the road to the playground. And that’s our Thursday. Maybe we’ll find other activities to add to the mix, or maybe one of these days I’ll make some friends, and Trixie and I can indulge in a leisurely Rhyme Time exit, mingling with friends, too.