Monday 23 October 2017

Goodbye to 12 years of our family food for thought

Aine O'Connor

My nephew, who is three and a half, has recently registered my son, thus far his only male cousin, as some kind of personal benchmark. Something has clicked and he has been heard to say that one day he will do things like him and be like him. I asked my nephew how old he thought this large creature might be and after some careful consideration he offered, "Oh ... mmmm five?"

The cousin creature in question, aka Number One, the Boychild, will be 17 on Tuesday. I've been writing this column since he actually was five. He was missing teeth and suntanned when I started, we were just back from holiday. He'd just gone into senior infants, he liked a game called Spyro. For years he'd pleaded for a sibling, he used to pretend the ants that swarmed every year from the same hole in the ground were his brothers and sisters and just that February he'd got a real human one.

He liked her all right, liked to have a go at feeding her and carrying her. We'd try to be supportive and let him do it as we hovered with outstretched hands and stifled dread. He had been less impressed by the divided attention. He had, after all, been the centre of the universe for nearly five years, so was old enough to register the arrival of the usurper.

When this started, the Girlchild was about seven months old, bald and also tanned – it turned out she was as dark as her father. People always commented on her brown eyes, though she had got them from my mother rather than either of us. Because of the absence of hair they said, "HE was lovely". It drove me mad. She'd be in frilly skirts and pink tights and purply glittery shoes. Did they think she was the world's smallest transvestite?

She's 12 now, as tall as me – not that hard – and her hair is round her waist. It's a long time since anyone confused her for a boy.

Beloved and I were in our early 30s, not quite four years married. He's got much better at grocery shopping, but still puts stuff up too high for my stubby little body to reach. I still tilt at windmills, just not as often as before.

They all still would sooner hang-glide over the laundry left on the stairs than carry it up, I've just given up whining about it. Usually. We had a different house, we had different cars. We're still broke. No one else really had kids. Everyone does now. I've put on and lost and put on and lost a good 89 stone, at least.

Good times, boring times, terrible times. A whole lot of trips to the supermarket.

Almost 12 years in the life of an average family that earned me some lovely letters, a couple of givings-out-to and some religious pamphlets. Oh and a box of crisps recently – they were very popular. For these and for reading and enduring these musings, I thank you. (Though I'm still dodging any and all gods.)

But mostly I have to thank Number One the Boychild aka Louis, Number Two the Girlchild aka Ruby, and of course Beloved, aka Dave (aka @***@@***/that **** man/I'm gonna kill him/sweetheart) and a cast of extended family and friends, pets and randomers for providing me with endless stories, whines and food for thought. And some food for eating.

So here I leave it. Weirdly emotional about it, too.

Irish Independent

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