Like the Cumbersome oak, the mothers of hotness have been caught off guard.

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Colette is hot. Sally is hot. Sabina is hot. I am very hot. Together, we are the mothers of hotness.

Just like deep into each spring a winter week returns, this Cumbersome autumn, a full week past the ides of March, the January heat-wave has come back for one last look, one last sweaty kiss, one last heat-wave good-bye.

In the park across the road from the Bentoni Brothers fruit market, our mothers group kids have been joined by a mob from the church-run day-care centre – herded in with one carer to the front and one to the rear, until their charges explode into the play equipment.

Melville park contains the only oak tree in Cumbersome, and its branches shade two sets of play equipment joined by a rope-bridge. This far into autumn the shade of the oak is less than optimal, as its turning leaves have already started to fall.

Like the Cumbersome oak, the mothers of hotness have been caught off guard. This morning I dressed Sam and Ellen with singlets beneath their t-shirts, singlets that I am last wise enough to remove – noticing how their eyes are starting to go all wonky.

Oscar, who feels the cold, and turns public-pool-tile blue at swimming lessons (honestly, it’s like watching him dissolve), his orange sweatshirt becomes drenched in nose-bleed blood, and we improvise by dressing him in Sam’s sweaty singlet – and he now sports a cute bow at the nape of his neck.

And the mothers of hotness continue to patrol the edges, keeping children to the shade as best we can, while administering doses of water out of plastic bottles.

The steely sheen of Colette’s bottle-blond hair half blinds me as she turns towards Sally’s daughter Jenny who is squirting water from the bubbler in a long plume that splashes into her face and down her neck-front. All the while, circling us, is the long zip of bicycle tyres as Colette’s son Dan rides around and around.

Discussion of the relative merits of Bentoni Brothers, Marrickville Metro, Ashfield fruit market, and that Greek place in Dulwich Hill – along with the anticipated weekend grower’s market at the Everleigh rail works – it all just washes over her. Not benignly like an autumn breeze, not medicinally like a plume of water; but with the slow violence of dead heat.

“And what’s with green beans selling at 16 bucks a kilo – what’s that all about?” I ask turning to Colette, seeking to draw her back in, only to see her gazing at Dan riding past, from shade into sun from sun into shade.

“Might as well buy a kilo of sirloin,” Sally says. “Yeah,” says Sabina: “A market-driven Atkins diet.”

“OK!” Sophie says, “Let’s record this happy moment!”

This is because today’s the day they’re free of me. Today is my last mothers group Tuesday before I return five days to the Ministry of Truth, and Sophie asks one of the churchy childcarers to do the honours with her Canon digital.

It’s just before midnight, with Betty, Sam and Ellen long asleep, when I check my email and find the photos from Sophie’s camera.

And there we all are – Sophie smirking, Sabina with her school-portrait smile, Sally careful to keep her chin just a little raised. Me grinning stupidly, and Colette covering her face to collect a sneeze.

And I browse my Events on iPhoto – mothers group, children, park – park – park. And there she is, Colette, in every one: smothering a cough, turning her head, swishing at a fly.

At just before the very same midnight, Colette is roused from her TV-couch sleep by her husband Colin. Her dreamy eyes glimpse the web address from the community service announcement on channel 7 HD for finding the missing – talkingworks.com.au. Colette switches off the TV with the remote and takes Colin’s hand silently for bed.