Oh, how my summers have changed...
Clichéd and all as it sounds, it really does just seem like only yesterday, that summer holidays from school started with a trip to the Zoo. The first sunny day after the kids finished in early July I would pack up the car with all necessary supplies and we would head over to the Phoenix Park. There we would pass happy hours marvelling at the exotic creatures until they started to flag – the children that is, not the exotic creatures. The final few enclosures could be a bit tortuous but it was always a great day, well except for the traffic on the quays on the way home.
Summer also meant a visit to Glenroe Farm in Wicklow, usually with the cousins. A good summer meant we may get there more than once. With the sun on our backs we would wander around talking to donkeys, cows and pigs before finally choosing a picnic table or two on which we would spread our food and treats. Afterwards the kids would do another round of the animals or just spend an hour in ‘pets corner’ while the mammies and the grannies stayed and chatted or gossiped. It was bliss.
But days out weren’t always so organised. Most summers we had countless picnics in the local park which has a great playground which would keep them amused for at least an hour while I read my book. Or we could go to the river bank – well stream bank really – with our fishing nets to catch pinkeens – on the strict understanding we threw them back. Or we could just sit on the grass making daisy chains or eating ice cream.
Other days we could head to the beach at Killiney for a walk and for skimming stones or to Sandycove for a paddle.
The last summer treat, which began as they got a little older, was to take a trip down the N11 to Bray. Old fashioned fun which carried echoes of my own childhood as we sampled rides on the bumper cars, the ghost train and the Waltzers. We also had a budget amount of small change to lose on the slot machines. The best part of the day though was ending with a bag of chips and a coke consumed in the car as we watched the sea through rapidly steaming up windows.
I miss eating chips from a bag in the car. I miss paddling. I miss daisy chains. Hell I even miss catching pinkeens.
But we weren’t always out. Every summer began in the hope of lots of warm weather and so we bought a paddling pool which over the years got bigger and very slightly more sophisticated. But we had one rule for our paddling pool – it had to be able to accommodate the end of the garden slide. On those sunny days, before water charges were even a glint in a Minister’s eye, I would rig up the garden hose to the top of the slide and off they would go; an aqua park in the back garden. It made a muddy mess of the lawn and many bushes got permanently damaged from small bodies careering into them at high speed but it was the best of craic, even just for the observer.
As the summer slipped towards autumn, we bought new schoolbags and school socks in Dunnes Stores and assembled the books for the coming year without needing a mortgage.
We also paid a visit to the toy store and the art shop to treat ourselves to some indoor activities for the winter; games and crafts and colouring books and crayons. God I miss the excuse to lie on the floor for an hour colouring in. Talk about being in the moment – ‘colouring in’ is the most amazing de-stresser.
I miss spending hours in the kids section of the bookshop among so many beautifully illustrated and magical books.
But that’s what happens with kids – suddenly your sunny, exuberant, up for anything darlings leave junior school and head into secondary. They get very tall and all of a sudden you are not great craic anymore (well you are, but never in public).
And while as a parent you relish the new freedom their independence affords you, there are things you will miss and will probably continue to miss until some day you will be called ‘granny’ and get to do them again.
But until that day comes, I vow that this summer I will return to the Zoo - on my own if necessary. I might even paddle in Sandycove. And come late August if you spot me in the local toy shop buying a colouring book and a box of crayons.... say nothing. Oh and it is true that we view the past through rose tinted specs.... but they were the best of times.... honestly.