We spread the rugs under the tree, the rubber-backed one that Mummy has provided, and my old red teddy bear quilt on top of it. I have brought two cushions, and I lean them against the trunk of the tree.
She takes her teddies out of the backpack, and arranges them carefully in a semicircle on the rug. There are about eight or ten of them; some I know well, but some have just come along for the party. She has brought her tea set, but there are only four of everything, so the teddies have to share.
I have a picnic basket, lined with an old embroidered cloth of my mother's. There is a bunch of artificial rose buds tied to the handle, which G. examines carefully. Her little fingers explore the dark pink buds. She would like to take one off, but they are fixed firmly, and she contents herself with admiration. She selects a spot on the rug in front of the teddies. and sits with her legs stretched out in front of her.
Mummy has made us toasties. They are individually wrapped in greaseproof paper, and are still warm. I pass her one, and we both tuck in. G. takes a container of fruit and nuts from the basket, and puts some on each of the teddy's plates.
A magpie comes to see what we're up to. I tell G. that I actually brought some bread to feed the ducks, but the magpie might like some of it. She is very pleased with this. She takes the bread, and throws piece by piece of it, but it all lands only just beyond the picnic rug. I think about the things I used to say to my children years ago when they did this: 'Try to throw it further away! They won't come that close! Don't throw it all at once, save some for later!' I am quiet now. I watch her finish throwing the bread pieces, and so does the magpie.
'He's not coming,' she says.
'He's trying to be brave,' I say, 'but it's hard.'
She turns to look at me as I say this, and straight away the magpie makes three or four hurried hops to the nearest piece of bread, grabs it, and flies off. She points after it, and struggles with a quite long sentence that has the words brave and babies in it.
A bower bird comes and has a look, followed by a couple of currawongs. A large flock of king parrots pick through the grass a little distance away. G. points excitedly to about fifteen dogs, all on leads, which have just appeared on the bike path, being walked briskly by their owners towards the dog park. I tell G. all about the dog park, and she is fascinated.
'I don't take Bella there,' I say.
'Why?' G asks.
'Because she doesn't really like sharing with other dogs.'
I have an amused little reflection on this to myself, imagining Bella in the dog park, either deciding that the whole park was her's and pissing the other dogs off, or pretending to have a nervous collapse and having to be taken back to the car.
Another little girl has appeared on the other side of the tree, and G., gets up and goes to play with her. They regard each other with open curiosity, but do not speak. The other girl climbs over a branch and rides it like a horse. G. watches, then it's her turn. I help her on, and push the branch up and down for her. The other little girl's mummy comes over from the Oaks café where she's been having a coffee with her friend..
'This is a wonderful tree,' she says, smiling.
'Yes,' I say. 'I've been having picnics under it for many years.'
'Me too,' she says. 'My parents used to bring me here for parties.'
The two little girls are running round the trunk of the tree. They are not chasing each other, so much as copying each other. We watch them. The mummy's face is warm with sunshine and coffee and love for her daughter.
'I love your daughter's jumper,' I say, and it is indeed a fine, soft, colourful thing. 'Did you knit it?'
'No!' she says, 'I found it at an Op shop!' We are both pleased with this.
I pack up the picnic things. The teddies have had enough, G. says; they are ready for bed.
As soon as we walk away back to the car, the magpies and currawongs swoop down on the rest of the bread.