Sunday 15 December 2019

Take time out and create memories

GETTING ON FAMOUSLY: You don’t need to be a member of The Famous Five to create lashings of summer memories
GETTING ON FAMOUSLY: You don’t need to be a member of The Famous Five to create lashings of summer memories
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

IT NEVER gets old, does it? When the sun comes out and with it, the light. When I was young, we used to all go a bit doolally this time of year. It was unfortunate in that it coincided with exam time and suddenly all the girls around UCC looked fantastic. Energy levels seemed to go up a bit, that kind of hum that hangs around a campus got that bit louder, we drank outside and sometimes the birds were tweeting again by the time we stopped.

And the newness of it never gets old. Every year, it comes like a surprise again, after six months of darkness and low-level flatness, six months of vaguely struggling, six months of forgetting it can be any other way.

And then this miracle happens where it gets bright again and the time for making memories is here. And with it the assumption that we will have a summer.

Somehow we never learn that either, and it comes as a surprise every year that sometimes the summer does not happen. We feel cheated every time. That is our insanity, to keep doing the same thing – presuming a summer – and to expect every year for things to be different, no matter how many times we've been disappointed. It's like, they say, how women necessarily forget the true pain of childbirth, otherwise they'd never do it again.

We forget that most summers are disappointing. If we didn't, we would just give up, or certainly give up living on this wet rock. In some ways, right now is the golden time of year. Our hopes haven't been dashed yet, and a few sunny days, albeit with a nip in the air, have given us that mad confidence that it's going to be another scorcher, and that the good weeks will coincide exactly with our weeks off.

Whatever way it pans out, it will be that time for making memories. I don't remember a whole lot in detail from my childhood. Bits and pieces stand out and they are invariably in the summer time. Even back then, we were more alive and more engaged with life in the summer. And I can see why in my own kids now.

This is the time of year that they stretch and grow, when one week with me or with their cousins and grandparents makes them leap ahead. It makes you wonder what would happen if they were consistently with us all the time. Presumably they would be fully grown adults by the age of three.

It's not just that this is the time of year they will remember, and that the job of parents now seems to be to create happy memories for them. We do it for ourselves as well, of course.

There is nothing like kids to remind you that time is slipping away. And every year that passes they are slipping through your fingers. There is a picture on the fridge at home of the older one running along the boreen on the island where she goes in summer without me. And there is something about her in it that makes me barely recognise her. You can see that she is gone half mad and half savage on the island, her hair in knots, a demented look in her eyes. And actually what it is is freedom. That's the look. And that's why she will remember it.

But that picture makes me sad too. Because I can see in it who she is becoming. She is starting already to run away, and to go half mad out there in the world. And every year she will run a bit faster and further. And one summer she won't want to come with me anymore.

And then I'll regret that I was always at work, that I was out of bounds even on Saturdays as I tweaked stupid jokes and tried to get used to strangers that I would try and create unnatural but temporarily real intimacy with that night. For now, I tell myself I am doing it for them, to get them a place to call home, a place they will remember and a place they can always come back to when freedom gets too much.

But summer is coming, and at my age, and their age, you realise that you don't have all the time in the world with them. There are only so many summers for us all together.

So time now to take an extra moment, or an extra hour, or an extra day or week, and just stop and let them lead me around slowly through their world of wonder.

Sunday Indo Living

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