Childhood…more specifically MY childhood.
Born into a family of (what would become by 1990) 9, I was the third youngest or the fifth eldest, depending on your point of view, or how much trouble I was in. My childhood, was, I suppose, like most others growing up in 1980’s Ireland . We wore our best clothes on a Sunday, for exactly one hour, 40 minutes of that was spent, sitting, fidgeting on a wooden pew, trying hard to pay attention to the old man shouting into the microphone, telling us we were all bad. 15 minutes it took us to walk to this place, where we were threatened repeatedly by my father, we had a list of ’ do’s and don’t’s ‘, which he repeated weekly( he still does it to this very day!) …” No messing. No talking. And in the honour of Jesus Fucking Christ, no cursing” . My father never really understood irony, it was however, not lost on us. We would stand there, mouthing the words as he barked his threats at us. Sucking our cheeks in, we would all nod, eyes fixed on the ground. “Yes dad” “I fucking mean it.”he would add, teeth clenched.
It only ever took us 5 minutes to get back home. We would run like excited pups,down the road around the corner, we ran to get out of those restricting, barely breathable clothes, we ran, we were free for another whole week. It really did feel that good! We knew we’d be kicked out to play (which we loved) , we knew mammy would have a beautiful roast at 3.30 but, but we always, always knew, we were that step closer to school the following day. That was the downside to our Sunday, mass was ok compared to having your weekend gone.
Our father was at his happiest every single week from 7pm on a Sunday evening. We heard the chorus of ‘school around the corner’ from every room in our house, either my father loved that song or he was trying to tell us something, either way we hated to hear him belt it out ,he even had a dance to go with it. I’d like to say my father was a man who hid his emotions well, but I would be lying.
Our summers were spent, like most, on our granny’s farm. We loved it. We would take it in turns to go out for 2-3 weeks, always going in twos. My farm partner was my older sister, Puddings. My father was a man that never really called you by your christened name much to my mothers annoyance, he only used your actual name when you were in trouble, big trouble. Puddings was chubby, she never really got rid of her ’ baby fat’ until she was in her 20’s, so my father used to call her Puddings.We never, ever thought this was a cruel name,when we were older our friends would say,” God, Mary, that’s an awful name for your dad to be calling you”. We’d always and still do laugh at it and remind our father we could have reported him for abuse back then! We all knew it was an affectionate term and still is to this day, we all call her Puds or Puddings, rarely Mary! Now, she’s 34 and slim, her newer name is extra large Puddings, I guess my father did learn a little about irony in his old age!
Our granny’s farm was beautiful. Lambs, sheep, cows, calves, donkeys grazed in her fields that seemed to spread for miles. ‘Dash’ her loveable sidekick was always chasing us and his tail! We loved playing in the hay shed, hiding on our cousin Gerard, who was a year younger than me but was nothing short of a brat. Gerard lived on granny’s farm with his parents, uncle Jimmy,(my fathers younger brother) and Linda, his wife, who, we felt, never really liked us visiting our granny.
Jimmy would be gone all day working on the farm or gone to the mart. We would be left with our ageing granny, playing 25 , which we adored her for, she taught us that game when I was 6, Puds would have been 8. We’d play after our tea and homemade brown bread ( I’ve yet to taste nicer…no offence mam!) while learning words to her favourite country western songs, ’ the Gambler’ by Kenny Rodgers,springs to mind. In later years, myself and my younger brother Mucker, ( Anthony ) would make money singing these songs for our ageing neighbours! ‘Cute whores’ my father would laugh, when he caught us taking a booking fee for Eamon’s house blessing.