It’s been very sad around here the past few days so I thought I’d share one of my pieces from the Irish Examiner’s Feelgood. Hope it brings a smile to your faces.
September is within touching distance so… hands up who isn’t just a little bit happy?
Don’t get me wrong I am not exactly thrilled Summer is ending, but what about the joy there is in an empty house for a few hours? Imagine tidying away breakfast dishes and all sorts of discarded clutter and an hour later walking back into that same room to discover it is still tidy! Or the miracle that is a cup of tea, savoured in silence while it is still hot?
However, for every up there is a down and in order to enjoy these quiet moments we must first say goodbye to our children, some for the first time. Who cannot look at the junior infants entering a school’s gate for the first time, clutching their parent’s hands, without feeling a tuck in our hearts as we remember those days with our own children? The first of the big goodbyes.
It’s twenty years since I took my eldest by the hand and walked her into ‘big school’. As she skipped along beside me, I felt my grip on her slipping away. A part of her childhood had ended and even though she was ready, I was not. You would think that as the years passed, I’d become better able to let go, but I seem to have been a slow learner and by the time my fourth and final ‘baby’ entered the school gates I was inconsolable.
‘You’ll make lots of friends,’ I said.
“I don’t need friends.”
“And you’ll meet your new teacher,”
“I hate her already.”
“And you know if you need to go to the loo..” At which point she held up her hand and said, “If I do, I’ll ring you!”
Perhaps it was just me but my children seemed to be in national school for a hundred years. On occasions I dreamed about being free until 4 pm. Until of course their last day came, and I watched them pass through the guard of honour, wearing my ugly crying face for all to see.
Barely recovered, a new goodbye dawned which had us traumatised at the idea of timetables, nineteen subjects and an enormous school. At least in junior school I could drop in with forgotten lunches or books and a friendly face would greet me in the office.
Not so with secondary school. There the expectation was that you didn’t forget your lunch or books and if you did your mother most definitely should not bring them in for you.
I’m not sure of the science behind it but unlike national school the years in secondary pass in a moment. One minute you are waving a young teenager off, uniform brand new if a little too large, the next you are welcoming them home on their final day, uniform well past its sell by date.
Post Leaving Cert, I had one final September goodbye, to face… university. Luckily we’d chosen Cork as our home town. No future child of ours would pack their bag and leave home at eighteen for college, not with a choice of two on our doorstep. Except they did, without a backward glance as off to Limerick they went.
September last year the third left to join her siblings. As I sat in the silence of my kitchen that first night reality dawned, three of my children were gone… forever. As my heart broke a little, yer man appeared, not looking heart broken.
“Do you think she’ll miss home?” I said.
“Of course she will,” said yer man, “who wouldn’t miss free accommodation, meals and laundry?”