Wednesday 6 June 2012

Our House.

I hail from a large family.  In typical Irish fashion I grew up in a one bath roomed house and with us all practically sleeping head to toe.  Ok, it wasn’t quite as bad as that, more like us all piled one on top of the other but in bunk beds.  Does that read a bit better?  (My mother will kill me.  Like the time I went to school after writing an essay describing our house as being 100 years old with loads of sheds outside with holes in the roof.) I am the oldest of seven girls and one boy so you can imagine the queue outside that bathroom door at any given time of the day.  For some crazy, mad reason, one she never explained, my mother gave her first 5 daughters names with the same initial. Picture the scene.  A letter arrives addressed to Ms. G. Surname.  There was many a screaming match when the wrong G opened the letter and claimed the toy Kellogg’s had sent, as hers.  Also my parents had terrible trouble matching the right name to the person who owned it.  Sometimes one of us was even called by our brother’s name such was the extent of their confusion.  Equally, if two or more of us were standing with our backs to them, they were stumped altogether.  This still happens today.  In fact, one time Mister Husband sailed perilously close to getting all warm and fuzzy with the wrong Wagon.  He still gets ribbed about that one.  Life was good in our full house.  I still believe our parents had it handy with the first three girls; it was the next three that upped the ante.  Many’s the time a late night visit to the one and only bathroom was interrupted by someone climbing in through the window.  Handily enough, our house was a bungalow.  No pesky walls to scale, just windows to be prised open.  Once or twice, even when the bathroom was empty on the midnight callers return home, she still let the cat out of the bag on herself by leaving wet and muddy footprints in the bath.  We grew up in a house that was never locked.  It had nothing to do with living in the country side but more to do with the fact that a key didn’t exist for the door.  There was usually someone home but if there wasn’t, the lock was supposed to be left off the latch.  When that didn’t happen it meant climbing in through the kitchen window.  I think there are at least two of us with tap shaped scars on our lower extremities.  The supermarket knew the score too.  If my mother wasn’t home to receive the weekly shop when it was delivered, one of the drivers would take that much oft used route through the kitchen window and open the door for the other so they could leave in the groceries. I remember Sunday morning outside the church always drawing a crowd.  Being of the generation where child restraints for the car were unheard of, we sat two deep in the back. There was always a child on my mother’s knee in the front and the smallest one got to travel in the back window.  This is not made up.  Then we had to get out.  Our family car was small.  None of your people carriers for us.  My father favoured the brightly coloured, orange springs to mind immediately, methods of four wheeled transport.  We all piled out, one after the other.  It looked like one of those world record breaking attempts where people stuffed themselves into phone boxes.  Except we weren’t trying to get into The Guinness Book of Records, just into mass.  So we travelled in a vitamin coloured car.  The exhaust pipe was usually falling off so in the highly unlikely event we weren’t seen on the approach, we were certainly heard.  There is an amusing little story where my parents were late in collecting my brother from school.  My mother arrived all in a tizzy, expecting the very newly Junior Infant to be upset but the teacher reassured my mother her son was fine.  Apparently he heard the car.  Coming over the Barrow Bridge so he knew they were on their way.  The Barrow Bridge is on the busiest street in our home town and approximately 200 metres away from the school.  Isn’t there a saying that cobbler’s children are never shod?  When he was but a small child, he was put in a dress in an effort to get our father out of the bed.  It worked!  He also liked to fill his toy tractor with diesel each and every morning before he started the day.  This involved my mother pushing him down the road (I kid you not!) to our next door neighbours which was really the filling station in disguise.  Once he had his vehicle filled he was happy.  Except for the day he needed a top up and my mother found herself face to face with a lorry driver in her kitchen asking, “Is this what you’re looking for?”  He happened upon my brother astride his blue Massey en route to the filling station.  A lucky escape for the three year old.  His nickname was Little Jesus and for good reason.  He had an accident with bubbles once.  There was more than a little assistance from one of his sisters who went into hiding when her baby brother literally started blowing bubbles from his nose and had to be brought to the doctor.  The first of us ever to be brought to a doctor for a minor ailment.  Growing up, the rest of us never knew such a special occasion. I was brought once, but it was through school and the GP received a swift kick in the shins for his efforts.  Well, in my defence, I was terrified and there was a sharp implement with a dangly bit of thread heading towards my lip.    These days my nephew asks his nana, my mother, for stories about us when we were growing up.  She doesn’t hold back.  I loved growing up as part of a large family.  There were times I didn’t but looking back on it, they were few and far between.  I always had company.  We always had fun.  We never, ever went without.  But I bet my parents did to give to us.  There was a stage when we kind of sort of divided up against each other but it didn’t last long.  And there was a brilliant few years in Dublin when 5 of us all lived within 10 minutes walking distance of each other.  One of us went off to New Zealand for a few years but she’s back now and has been for a long time.  That was a Paddy’s Day “out foreign” to remember and when I came home I discovered I was pregnant the following month.  My kids have never known childcare other than that of my family. My car has never known a mechanic other than my father and brother.  And I have never known laughter like it when we all get together.         

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