Tag Archives: sentimental

To my children

Kids, as that old-y time-y TV program, How I Met Your Mother likes to begin:

I am so damn proud of you. Whoever you are, whatever you do, already and in the future, I am proud of you. Because, heck, you came out of nowhere and took over my life, and it takes a lot to manage that because I’m inherently both lazy and hidebound and I like my little ways and I like my stuff just the way I like it.

But aside from my dislike for change, which you have challenged every morning, noon, and night (especially night) of your lives, you are amazing people. You are so much yourselves, and nobody else. You listen even when I think you don’t, you take on board information I have trouble processing myself, you know what you should be doing even if, even as, you make an informed decision not to abide by it. You stand up for yourselves, you demand attention, you shout, dammit. (Shhh. My ears.)

Don’t ever lose the self-assurance you have now, in your pre-tween years. It may be damped down a little in adolescence, when you strive for acceptance among your peers by trying to fit in or by keeping quiet when something inside you would rather sing and dance. But bring it back as you emerge from your chrysalis, shedding one skin after another as we do in our teens, trying on one persona and then the next like so many pairs of jeans, until we are finally left with ourselves, whether we like it or not – and then we have to learn to love what we are, or be miserable ever after.

Take your parents’ love for you, our delight in you, our trust and belief and our assurance that you’re beautiful and that you’re worth all of it and more, and keep all those things in your heart, so that you demand that worth from the people you encounter, the ones you love whom you want to love you back. And from yourselves.

I’m proud of you, because you are you.


Angels in the architecture / spinning in infinity

My past and my present are squashed into one moment, right here right now.

B put Negotiations and Love Songs on tonight while we were eating dinner. “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” and “You Can Call me Al” and “Me and Julio down by the School Yard” are songs I can sing all the words to without even being aware that I’m doing it, but then it got to “Something So Right.” And it sends me straight back in Boston in 1993, looking at summer sunlight on splintery wooden floors in a rental condo full of Irish students, feeling absolutely positively in love, swooping and reeling with the words of the song and the amazement of being 20 and finding out that it’s all true and hoping with all my heart that he feels it too.

And now I’m sitting here looking at our children.


The approach of Valentine’s Day, mind you, fills me with ennui. It’s not about the husband; we are happily united in our decision to pretty much ignore it. But the children, or at least the pre-schooler, is not merely expected but actually required to bring a Valentine for everyone in her class; so much so that we were e-mailed the list of names at the weekend so that nobody would be left out. Now, a pre-school Valentine is not much – a square of cardboard, maybe a heart shape, store-bought or home-made, with or without a Hershey’s kiss, pink pencil, or other such tiny offering. But SIGH, it’s another THING I have to DO. She’s not the one who will download some cute printables or pick something up in Target or, heck, pull out a sheet of pink construction paper (as if we had such a thing to hand): I am.

I don’t even know if the second-grader is meant to do anything. He’s off school that day, so maybe we can just pretend it’s not happening. I don’t know at what age Valentines stop being a “friends” (that is, classmates, not actual friends) thing and start being a romantic thing in this country. Does he have a few years to go yet? He’s not a tween till he turns 8, right? I still have a couple of months in hand.


In Boston in 1993 I did not ever look forward to this point. When you’re twenty you will never ever be forty, boring, going to school board meetings for the thrill of it. Life is a blank canvas and the world is yours to conquer.

And when you fall in love when you’re twenty, you can just be in love and not worry about what’s going to happen in the future.


However, as the man said, still crazy after all these years.



The Internet: not so scary after all

D’you remember the movie The Net? Sandra Bullock, presumably alongside some forgettable male, played someone who was so plugged in to technology that she never left her house, ordered pizza on the Internet, had no friends and no outside-world contact. Your classic movie introvert geek – the it-could-never-happen-in-real-life twist, I suppose, being that she was a pretty young woman instead of a Comic-Book-Guy-esque bloke. She got mixed up in something, she made magic with her fingertips on the keyboard, the computers fizzed and popped, and lo, everything was all right in the end. She was probably even enticed out of her apartment and into the real world.*

The future looked pretty bleak though, and it was a cautionary tale for those people who might end up like Sandy. Don’t get too attached to the Internet, they told us, or you’ll lose yourself down a rabbit hole of online dating (DANGER, WILL ROBINSON) and endless cheesy pepperoni. You may even forget how to communicate with the guy who brings the pizza, and then he won’t get a tip. And then he might murder you. (Different film. Probably.)

But then there’s this.

Last week a friend of mine was having a bit of a hard time. Some other friends got together, had a quick whip-round, and bought her a present to cheer her up. She was touched and delighted. All these friends were geographically spread across three countries at the time, and most of them had never even met her, or each other, and still haven’t.

Elsewhere, a woman who has helped many parents over the past several years by providing invaluable support and information had a family crisis. There was an outpouring of love and prayers and good vibes for her situation, as a whole passel of people who have been helped by what she has done saw a chance to give back, if only with thoughts and words, a fraction of the good she has done for us.

Once upon a time there was a girl whose not-so-secret desire was to be a real writer. She still hasn’t quite got around to writing that book, but thanks to the Internet, she got to write regularly and get encouraging feedback from an array of friends and strangers, and it meant oh so much to her. Because the Internet means she is a real writer.

People on the Internet make a difference for others, without necessarily leaving their houses. They build communities, they make friends, they have real relationships and provide true, unjudgemental empathy. They also have fun dates and meet nice people and, hey, order pizza without going outside, and that works pretty well.

The Internet is not such a scary place, is what I’m trying to say. It’s growing up and turning out not so badly, I think.

* I purposely did not look up the movie (on the Internet; oh, the delicious irony) to find out more about what actually happened, lest I touch the delicate bloom of my ignorance and discover that I was completely wrong and my whole carefully constructed (ahem) argument falls apart at the seams. If necessary, you may understand that this is my imagining, from this later point,¬†of what The Net was about. I’m positive it was Sandra B, though. That much I know.

The hustler

What you might call our first date was, I believe, an arrangement to meet up at our university (in the last week of Easter break) and play some pool. With a friend, probably. To the uninformed viewer it might have seemed casual in the utmost. We might have had lunch in the totally unromantic UCD canteen first. Or maybe we pushed the boat out and got one of those little pizzas on the second floor. I should remember, but I don’t.

What I remember is the pool table. We went down to “The Trap”, which is what everyone called the pool tables and juke box in the basement of the Arts building, beside all the lockers, and put some coins in a table. I think we found our mutual friend (through whom we had first met two weeks earlier) down there; we certainly weren’t alone. It being the holidays, the place wasn’t thronged with students avidly avoiding lectures, but it wasn’t deserted either. Some people could reliably be found in The Trap no matter what the season or semester.

Now, don’t be imagining I’m some sort of pool shark. Tom Cruise and Paul Newman would wipe the floor with me in half a second flat. But ever since my friend and I used to push the white ball around the empty table in the Dunlaoghaire Motor Yacht Club with our hands, or watch the coloured balls lining up with those lovely clicks through the little window to the table’s innards, or even when my late lamented Uncle Brian tried to show me how to hold a cue at the age of about seven, I’ve had a sort of affinity for the game.

(My granny used to watch the snooker on TV. That took some concentration, before she got the color set.)

So B was the one who showed me how to play. (I won’t say “taught me” becuase that would imply that I have learned and am now able to do it.) I know the rules and can slide the cue towards the white ball and almost always make it hit one of the others. Something usually goes in a pocket eventually. I don’t really care. I love watching the skill of others, the ones who do know what they’re doing. I love the almost-frictionless roll of ball towards pocket, watching an engineer calculate the angles, or pretend to, hearing the satisflying click (or the rumble when the white goes down and you wait for the table to send it back to you).

So there we were on our date, having a nice game of pool, not exactly knowing where this was going or how to move things forward. I leaned on the table. I put my hand a little too close to where his hand was also leaning on the side of the table as we waited for our friend to take a shot. The sides of our little fingers touched, and a tiny electric shock went through me. That was enough. The direction was set. Fate was on notice.

Wednesday will be our ninth wedding anniversary, by the way.

We used to play a game of pool now and then, whenever we were in a bar with a pool table, with a couple of friends or just the two of us. I didn’t get any better, but I still enjoyed it. Last week on our vacation we had an early dinner one night in a not-very-Italian restaurant attached to a very American bar. We passed the pool table as we walked through the bar to our booth seats. I made a mental note of it. When dinner was over and ice-creams had been screamed for and ordered (politely) and said thank-you for (politely) I suggested we might just see if the pool table was still unused on our way out.

It was. Probably we should not have stopped for a quick game of pool in a bar with our seven year old and our four year old, but we did, and nobody cared, and it was fun. It was fun to impress the kids with this thing they had no idea we would ever do. It was fun to let them chalk our cues and retrieve the white ball and suggest what we might aim for next. They were just about old enough to keep their hands off the balls and the other cues for long enough for B to wipe the floor with my pathetic effort (it takes me most of a game to get my eye in, and it had been a few years) and clear the table, clonk clonk clonk, like a pro.

Or maybe I’m still just easily impressed by some people.

Mini pool table
Not to scale


I’m sure it’s uncool to admit this, but I’m sort of totally besotted with my seven-year-old just now. Maybe it’s because I picked up a couple of new things for him at Target yesterday and he’s finally now wearing trousers that come past his ankles, along with a groovy navy hoodie, but he looks like a whole new – big – kid to me. A handsome, smart (in the good way), sensible (mostly), listening (sometimes), cool quirky individual with a personality all of his own.

He hums to himself and sings choruses of his own composing, he pitches and catches and bike-rides at high speeds, he reads and writes (albeit reluctantly), he loves math homework. I gave him a joke book for his birthday, as I had a hunch that if anything could get him reading it would be a bunch of cheesy, predictable, corny jokes – and indeed, he labours through each one, sometimes needs the punchline explained, and then appreciates the heck out of each and every old chestnut.

Have new coat, will wear

He won’t be kissed any more, and any goodnight kiss I might happen to land on him is quickly swiped off and sent back to me. But if I have to wake him up for school – I never thought the day would come, for my 5am two-year-old, but it has – I plant a good few smackers on his warm sleepy cheek and he grins through his dreams and can’t muster the energy to push me off. Hugs are still okay, even awake, and he’ll still surprisingly hold a hand.

He can’t see me with a camera without hamming it up to the nth degree, which is why I have a lot of photos of superhero poses and cheesy grins and not many of his bright handsome face looking the way it should. He’s lost and gained two bottom teeth, and the gap where he knocked out one top tooth in babyhood finally looks right, though the replacement isn’t poking through just yet. He looks like his father, like my mother’s brothers when they were young; not like me that I can see, but others can, they say. His eyes are blue, his shins are bruised, and he always seems to need a haircut.

He’s miraculous, hilarious, and totally irritating. He’s irrational, loud, stubborn, infuriating, and a pain in the neck, but his heart, I think, is in the right place. He plays gently with the younger kids, until he forgets and shows off. He adores and tolerates his rambunctious little sister and puts up with her nonsense and her imperious demands for the one corner of the sofa that everyone wants, and he knows exactly how to push her buttons until she screams and stomps off in high dudgeon.

He was an obsessive three-year-old, deeply devoted to Spider-Man and constantly wanting to make machines and have us build things for him out of cardboard. His obsessions have levelled off as his interests have expanded and his abilities have caught up with his imaginings, but he still devotes a lot of thought to inventions he’s planning and characters he’s inhabiting. He just has other outlets now, his own internal life and friends at school and things I’m not involved in, just as it should be. That’s what we’ve been preparing him for, after all.

I’m not saying he’s Done or anything, but he seems to be coming along quite nicely. And I like him a lot where he is right now.


April Fool’s Day, we decided, was our relationship anniversary date. We weren’t quite sure, when we were established enough to be trying to figure it out, exactly which day the party had been on, but it was the last Thursday of the Easter break from college that year. Not that we were officially “going out” instantly – it took a few weeks, maybe a month, to be sure we were allowed use the boyfriend/girlfriend tag for each other. We knew it had been about a week after B had turned 20, so April first seemed right. I decided not to be insulted by the date’s practical-joke connotations. It was an omen of laughter, nothing more.

But it’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since I first heard all of Negotiations and Love Songs for the first time, whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon in his house. What makes it sound so long ago is that it was before we’d ever sent an e-mail, before we’d seen a digital camera, long before we all had phones we could take with us, before anyone had thought of Facebook or Twitter or blogging. We managed to conduct a romance perfectly well without text messages or status updates. We called each other on the home phone; when we arranged to meet in town, we showed up. We used payphones now and then. There was cherry blossom and Paul Simon and pizza and the last Dart home and losing whole afternoons in kisses. And missing the last Dart home.

That was the first beginning, of course. There were endings and beginnings a-plenty again after that, because we both had other things to do and people to see and places to go. It was eleven and a half years before we sealed the deal, and not due to what you might call a long engagement. Just a long and chequered courtship, all the longer for not knowing that it would all turn our right in the end.

But the tipping point has arrived and now we’ve known each other for longer than we haven’t; and I’m surprised it took so long because it feels like we should have known each other for ever and also in previous lives.


And then you have children and the whole thing goes into overdrive and you wake up one morning and wonder how you got to be almost forty, and how you got so lucky as to have everything you ever wanted. And a mobile phone to boot.

Happy 20, B the B.