Here you go, one of my Irish Examiner columns. Hope at least one of you manage a smile.
My apologies if you were disturbed last Wednesday around lunchtime, by a loud hissing noise, not unlike the air leaking out of a giant balloon. Don’t worry it was just me letting out my breath as my daughter received her Junior Cert results. You might have also heard me suck it in again later that evening as she and a group of friends got dressed for results night? And hiss it out once more when she returned safe on Wednesday night?
Yes, the Junior Cert is over for the final time in our house. Hallelujah. The relief. I’m sure in many homes it was a big moment, but as this is our fourth child I didn’t exactly toss and turn the night before. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, I can’t even remember what results my previous three children got in this very important exam, or what I got myself for that matter, although I assume it was a spectacular result.
Growing up, I wasn’t a child who worried over exams or put too much effort into preparing for them. Most of the time I got a grade which was borderline acceptable, with the accompanying comment, “Could do better.” I was completely unlike yer man, who was quite the scholar and hard worker. I recall a phone call between us the night before my nursing finals,
“How are you feeling?” he said.
“A bit nervous,” I replied, “I’ve so much still to cover.”
“Well, do your best. Maybe call it a night in an hour or two and get a good sleep?”
As he spoke, I thought it probably wasn’t the time to tell him I was watching Eastenders.
To be fair to my young exam student, I don’t think she lost too much sleep either the night before the results. Her mind was rather more taken up by the important things in a sixteen-year-old’s life, such as the promise of a great night ahead. What to wear? What to do with her hair? Not to mention nails and make up.
Years ago, as a new mother I’d judged young teenagers, like my daughter, going out to discos, fed by newspaper stories of drunkenness and wantonness and horrified at what they were allowed to wear. There was no way any child of mine would be allowed to go out dressed like that.
Until the day came when my eldest got a much wanted ticket to her first disco in the local GAA club. We’d resisted for a few years, but both of us knew the time had come. From early afternoon there was laughter and chat coming from her bedroom as she and her friends readied themselves.
Following at least six hours of preparation yer man and myself watched as they emerged one by one, transformed. Curly hair straightened, make up on (admittedly, some more expertly applied than others) and smelling stronger than the attendants at the perfume department in Debenhams.
As they passed, pulling down short skirts and tottering in high heels, yer man whispered,
“I can’t believe they went in there as individuals and spent the afternoon making themselves look identical to each other.”
I smiled in agreement.
Dropping them off in the car park I caught the eye of some young parents as they watched them get out of the car, and I could almost hear the tut tutting as they judged them, just like I used to.
Fast forward more than ten years and that young disco queen is now a school teacher. As her younger sister emerged from her room recently, disco ready, she looked at me,
“Is she wearing that?”
“Indeed she is,” I said, “just like you did, and who knows, some day she might even turn out just like you.”