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September is onebig scary monster

August, and one of the last days of so-called summer peers back at us through rain-dashed windows from under a thick blanket of cloud and with what seems to be a rather bad case of wind.

I lift the page of the wall calendar and take a peek at the 30 days hidden there, promptly snapping it back into place as though September might escape if I'm not too careful.

The calendar swings in place on its nail just a little too merrily for my liking, taunting me. "Ha-ha. Just a few days to go."

Before the month is up, the youngest will be traipsing to secondary school for the first time with six kilogrammes - or €300 worth - of books on her bony little back. Her older brother will be swanning off to what he irritatingly insists on gloating is to be "a year of no school work" in Transition Year.

We'll shortly be shelling out the few remaining shekels from our wine fund under the cushions of the sofa on bus fares as the second-eldest begins three hours of return commutes each day to his new university life on the other side of the city.

The eldest, meanwhile, is California-bound for a third college year to be spent on an international exchange programme, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for him that is sure to leave us with a gaping hole in the pit of our stomachs - and our wallets.

How prepared are we for all this? Figuratively, it's all just a new series of episodes in the continuing soap opera of our family life. Financially, it's a monster horror movie - Friday the 13th and Aliens rolled into the one gaping, scream-like maw that is soon to be our bank overdraft.

I back away and accidentally tread, in my socks, in an extravagant pool of puppy pee.

The youngest appears on cue and chuckles into her fist. "Oh, dear," she says.

"Well," I sigh, peeling off my sock with a thumb and forefinger, "isn't it supposed to mean good luck, at least? That I'll come in to some money or something?"

"I think that's only when you step in, um, the other," she says, covering her nose with her sleeve and watching me dab the enormous puddle uselessly with my drenched sock.

"Hmm, think I'll take my chances," I say as she trundles off, still clutching her face with her sleeve.

I'm still mopping the floor when my wife comes in. "Ready for September?" I say grimly.

"I know," she says, squinting out the window at the weather. "It really is pathetic. It's supposed to be still summer. Is it too much to ask for one more decent day?"

"No, no," I say. "September. You know, school, college, all that. The whole shebang."

She looks at me like I'm mad. "Oh, you mean September," she says. "Like when everyone goes to bed again at a normal time instead of staying up all night and getting up at four in the afternoon? When everyone will finally be old enough to set off each day under their own steam without me having to drive them in a panic? When the house will be quiet and stay clean all day?"

I blink at her.

"Bring it on," she says, and it strikes me that whatever kind of monster the month ahead may be, it could well meet its match in my wife. She's my very own Sigourney Weaver and, broke or not, she's going to make September our bitch.

terrifying

As it turns out, September, or rather the seemingly less-than-entirely-terrifying new regime the month has in store, still has its way of pulling the rug out from under you.

I'd been so focused on the page of the calendar still to be turned that I hadn't noticed what was circled and scribbled on the August side, until I'm suddenly faced with the sight of something I haven't seen in almost three months - a teenage boy at half-past-eight in the morning in a school uniform.

"What. . . ?" I manage. "It's not. . . ." I mean to finish with the words "September yet", but luckily I save face by shooting a glance at the bottom of the calendar page instead.

"Transition Year, Orientation Day" it reads.

"Well, that came on quick," I tell him.

"Yeah, summer's over. Sucks," he says through wet hair, flopping around in socks, looking for something. "Have you seen a padlock?"

"Like a padlock for a school locker?" I try. He grunts. "Where, or when did you last have it?"

"Last day of school," he mumbles, loping around the corners of the room, still looking.

"Before the summer? That was an entire lifetime ago," I tell him.

"Yeah, I know," he says. "Sucks."

I watch him circle the kitchen one more time then give up.

"I might need some money for a new one," he mutters.

"You'll have to check the wine fund," I say, pointing with my chin to the sofa.


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