As sure as the sun rises every morning, it always forgets to shine in Ireland. As little as five times a year, I receive the phone call from my oldest friend on a rare vitamin D infused day to say…
‘Well Mary, ‘tis like downtown LA here’…
She is in fact in Rathgar and is more than likely marvelling at the speed at which the Irish are able to get their ‘summer on’. No sooner has Evelyn Cusack uttered, ‘long periods of sunshine with highs of 20’, and the legs are shaved, the toe nails varnished and we are doused in St. Tropez mouse. Last year’s barely used Lidl factor 30 is seized from the bathroom cabinet, the shorts and vests grabbed from the top shelf and Frank is out mowing the still saturated lawn and dusting off the barbeque. We head to work in our beach clothes at the first sign of sun and can dress highly inappropriately at a moment’s notice of heat.
God love us, we are ready!
We talk about the weather a lot in Ireland, constantly speculating the rainfall and every high and low. I often consider, if we spoke about our feelings as much as the weather, we would be the most well-adjusted nation in the world. We are so starved of that summer high, that when it fleetingly checks in, we embrace it with every fibre of our being, and for those few days we immediately STOP and appreciate life.
Last weekend, we were gifted three days of pure sunshine, (in what may have been our entire summer quota) with the added bonus of a Bank Holiday weekend. It was so rare that we headed into the weekend suspicious that this could in fact be a trick and the end of the world was nigh. As I blissfully sat on the stony beach in Greystones, marvelling at the two little ones splashing about in their wetsuits to protect them from the icy conditions of the Irish Sea, watching a group of teenagers foolishly jump off the pier into the murky sea below, in what must have resulted in their togs reefed up their arses and a five second loss of life upon hitting the freezing water…
I pondered life.
My Dad was to my right. The teenagey daughter to my left. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular in that moment and for once my worries were at bay. I nonchalantly rested my head on Dad’s shoulder, inhaling the moment, briefly feeling like a kid, calming surveying the ocean and its activities with my father and relishing these days that will someday come to an end. I glanced at the teenagey one and she smiled at me, a rare pure smile. She reached towards me to tenderly put her hand on my face but instead plucked a long dark hair from my chin.
I flinched. She laughed.
‘Sorry mum it was right there blowing in the wind.’
As I was swiftly catapulted back to the stark reality that I am in fact the hairy chinned mother and not the child, it struck me how things change. How life continues to plummet forwards taking us unwittingly through each phase. I flashbacked to reaching over and plucking a ‘stray grey’ from Dad’s ear giggling at the state of him and his old man hairy lobes, except now it was me being plucked like a middle aged chicken. And in that moment three thoughts entered my probably hairy brain,
1. I must remember to audition for the stage production of ‘The Greatest Showman’ as the bearded lady.
2. Holy shit was I one of those women that walks about oblivious to the fact that they are sporting a Magnum PI moustache and I will endeavour to buy a magnifying mirror with a handy light feature, the next time they come into Aldi, and carefully examine said chin and upper lip.
3. Time was moving on.
My Dad carries about with him a plethora of morto Dad jokes. One of the classics was to hilariously declare, when we were out and about with him as teenagers, ‘Gosh, people will think you’re my girlfriend.’ This was always met with the desired squeals of disgust that he was aiming for and he would chuckle away to himself. He has continued this wisecrack for much of our adult lives, so much so that as I climbed into the passenger seat on our journey home from Greystones, he began, ‘You know, people will think…
‘You know Dad, it pains me to say that the possibility of people thinking I’m your girlfriend gets a little bit more real with each passing year!’
The gap of years is closing fast and as they saunter towards old age, I am being hurtled faster and faster towards middle age, with a great big hairy chin, a niggling knee, shifting teeth that may at some stage require Invisalign intervention, and a face that requires copious serums and lotions to keep the life crinkles away. But it’s not really the physical changes that bother me, I am after all a master of disguise, with my SoSu fake lashes and skinnyfying mirror, but it is the more the fact that someday I will blink and I’ll be seventy and my daughter will be having her chin plucked on a beach somewhere by her daughter. (Hah!)
Life is just so bloody busy and we are all frantically rushing towards the next phase. We wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, all our lives for happiness.
I remember being in such a rush to move out of home. The S.O and I got the keys to our first home, three days before our wedding and both still living at home and with nothing much to pack but our clothes and few belongings, we decided to move that very moment. I bustled about all day packing up my red Mini, wondering if they would notice if I stole some furniture, while The Mothership walked about for the whole day with her nose stuck in the air, refusing to engage.
‘Menopause’, I thought and carried on loading the Mini with my fashions, make up and my prized Wrinkles dog teddy that she had cleverly used for years to hide her diamond rings in his talking head when we were away. As the day wore on and the last load was in the car, she unleashed a guttural sob, making me realise it wasn’t in fact the menopause, it was that her fourth and final ‘cling on’ was leaving forever. I was so busy rushing towards my future that I didn’t notice, I was closing her door to my past. Slamming it in her face. I had imagined that at her stage in life she would be delighted to be rid of me. She was 55 years old, had raised and educated four kids, revolved her life around us for the last thirty years and THAT WAS IT…
SEE YA, GOOD LUCK!
Yes life moves on. Every morning we get up and go through the motions. We take the good bits from each day and plough through the hard. Every night we go to bed, vow to live better tomorrow, eat better, stay calm, have fun, and laugh more. With each week that goes by we try to stay on top of what we have to do, whether it’s work, kids, appointments. We promise to go to the gym more, not drink as much, spend as much, not worry as much. Each month is a fresh start to again eat better, exercise more, live better, love more. Each year promises to be better than the last. Each decade will be the best one yet. You get the idea…
and then sometimes you just think, what the F*** is this all about?
We stumble through life wanting the biggest house, the best car, the best job, the best holiday, the best for our kids. By the time one phase of our lives is over we are hurtling faster into the next phase, taking what we learnt from the last (bog all) and trying to use our experiences to do better.
By the time one season’s fashions are tucked inside the wardrobe, then the weather changes. Suddenly skinny jeans are out and we are supposed to be wearing boyfriend jeans. Blazers are a no-no and it’s all about aviator jackets. Stilettos are replaced by cone heels? Aggghhhhhh.
Once you have mastered living a low fat diet, we discover this is all wrong and we are supposed to be doing no carbs, high protein, moderate fat.
Cardio was key, now it’s weights and weights don’t make you bulky they make you lean and abs are built in the kitchen but no one gave me the recipe and running is bad for you and spinning makes you fat and…
We used to drink vodka, now it’s gin and god help you if you don’t like gin because every party has a gin bar and a glass the size of a fishbowl and pepper and cucumber in there, in a drink no less!
Your runners used to be for the gym and now they are for formal wear.
Once you have managed to have the entire house and every stick of furniture painted grey, that’s deemed passé and all white is back in.
And everyone has become so darned PC! We can’t talk about anything anymore. All the fun words are out of bounds, you can’t say that, do that, feel that. Everyone suffers from anxiety, even dogs, and is it any wonder, we are all gone frickin’ bat shit crazy. GOOD GOD it’s fast. It’s all so fast that if we don’t stop and take stock we are going to miss the entire thing. We are going to get to the end of it all and say…
‘take me Jesus, I’m exhausted’.
And everyone tries to hide the fact they can’t cope and let on that ‘everything is just marvellous Mary.’ We are judged for everything. We help too much, we don’t help enough. We are too old, too young. Too mouthy, too quiet. Too open, too closed. Too rich, too poor. We work too hard. We don’t work at all.
We are on a hamster wheel that we can’t get off. We try to make it go faster and faster to make the journey quicker and easier or just to keep up. But instead we should be slowing it down to a pace we can manage, a pace that lets us take in the view. Because everything outside that wheel is still. Nothing is moving but us. We are the knobs making the wheel turn and turn.
I have fond memories of Dad, who was a builder (master craftsman as he liked to call himself) coming home from work every evening when we were kids. He was dusty and smelled of cement. He would shower, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed, repeat. Work, shower, dinner, TV, bed, repeat. And it seemed so thankless to me back then, so mundane. He was trapped in those busy years, paying for us to swan about. I never asked how or why he did it? Never questioned how much we cost? Well I bloody do now as I find myself in the throes of it. Each kid costs a small fortune. But you just do it. You just get on with it. Is it any wonder we forget to stop every so often to take in life?
Because this is it. This is life. It’s a ship that keeps on sailing. But we so easily forget that we are the Captain of that ship and while we can’t stop it, we can steer it.
I remember someone suggesting to write down all the funny things the kids say, so in years to come we could look back and laugh. I meant to do it. I really did but I was busy. And I have to admit that sometimes I throw their messy pictures in the bin to save me walking into the wardrobe to quickly pop them into the memory box because I want everything all tidy, NOW. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom for some peace, I’m sure they think I have a terrible dose of IBS, but someday I’ll open the door and there’ll be no one there telling me that their brother pinched them or that their sister is chewing with her mouth open to annoy them.
It’s all going so fast.
The teenagey one is now taller than me so I’m no longer able to walk around with her in my arms. But try as I might, I cannot remember the last time I picked her up. Did I know that would be the last time I would try to lift her? Did I nearly break my back? Did I say ‘oh I can’t lift you anymore you are getting so grown up’? It just happened and I’ve forgotten when.
And I wonder when my son will stop coming in with cuts on his legs and grubby hands.
And when the little one will stop running around the house butt naked and care free.
When they don’t need me to wash their hair.
When they don’t need me five times a year to rub their sun cream on.
The teen one goes to Irish college with the school next week. I sincerely hope times have changed since I went myself as I’m sure when I went I was at least twenty-nine. She also wants to start getting the bus by herself. The BUS!! ‘Don’t be ridiculous you are only three and a half.’
It must have been how The Mothership felt when she waved me off the day I left home…thinking what the hell was that all for? Thanks for the last twenty five years you ungrateful little so and so.
But I came back…I came back the very next day. I came back most days for the next ten years and parked myself with my babies in her kitchen and hung out long enough for her to feed me and my offspring, so I could still witness my dad come home from work, dusty and tired, smelling of glorious cement not realising all the while time was moving on.
The Mothership now has the best social life and is far busier than I am, but in the fun way and I’m the bloody eejit blundering my way through life. I’m the one who’s wondering what the hell it’s all about. She sends me pictures of her and her buddies in Spain drinking gin. My Dad is seventy three and is one of the most youthful people I know. My friend calls him MacGyver. He rides a motorbike, drives boats, was a deep sea diver, has built us homes, fixes everything that breaks, even me sometimes. He’s a badass Grandad and enjoys telling his own kids how much of a mess they are making with everything, but it comes straight from the heart. I know Dad worries more about us now then he did when we were kids and I know he hates growing old and fears when he is no longer around to fix our breaks. But we’ll be ok. He has instilled his badassness in us and his Grandkids. We will remain forever young at heart, just like him.
Time waits for no man. Time goes on. But this our time and we need to seize it and live it and remember that in each mundane day there’s got to be something lovely.
Recognise it. Hold it. Embrace it.
On Saturday, I sat on a beach with my dad and kids and had my chin plucked.
On Sunday, I sat in the sunshine and watched the boy child flip on the trampoline and shouted for him not to break his neck.
On Sunday evening, the love of my life took me out and told me I looked beautiful and get better with age. (Cataracts)
On Monday I read a really great book.
On Tuesday I sat with my laptop and thought about my parents and their lives.
Today I flicked through my phone and look at my life through photos and realise that it’s ok to capture the best bits.
We can let the mundane get us. We can let negativity creep in. Or we can be positive and grateful. For love, for health, for laughter, for rare sunshine. The future is coming. I’m terrified of my folks getting older. I’m terrified of losing them. I’m terrified of waking up one day and my kids being gone. But that’s not happening today. Today everything is just fine. Today I am just sitting here writing about it all. Time waits for no man. So just be. Sometimes just be. Face your fear of the future and shout…
‘By the hair on my chinny chin chin, I will not let you in.’
This blog is dedicated to John Noel Small, the fixer of breaks. Who taught us to work hard, play hard, love hard and while sometimes he annoys the living shite out of me and he is most definitely not always right, he will always be. My Father, The Hero.