‘If you’re going to spend half an hour chatting to every mum on the way to the car, we’ll never get home’ astute marque 2 remarks as we wend our way through the merry throngs at the end of the second day. There’s something different about the return this year. The collective parental sigh that usually accompanies it is curiously absent. There’s a consensus that it all came to an end too soon. An unpreparedness for the assault of the manic mornings, the lunch boxes, the lost uniform ties, the impending homework gloom. Where I used to feel alone in not wanting the school year to begin, everywhere I turn now there are allies.
My research head tells me to search for the variable. What’s causing this difference? Everyone I talk to reports they had a great summer. Not a ‘grand’ or ‘fine’ one which other years has been case:
‘How was your summer?’
‘Ah grand, grand. I was ready for them to go back though!’ accompanied by a conspiratorial collective laugh of relief. I find none of that this time.
‘How was your summer?’
‘It was great, great’ accompanied by smiles and the addendum that ‘it was over too soon’. They seem to really mean it. The weather. Cha-ching. We have just experienced a real summer, not a typical Irish one. Plenty of sunshine, sporadic mini-heat waves that didn’t keep us waiting until September for their arrival. Yes, there were the weather warnings and torrential rain and flooding. The tail end of a hurricane. Blips in the overall picture. The truth is that we, in Ireland, have just had a super summer weather-wise. Vitamin D levels are soaring at a comfortable high. Nobody wants the party to end. Even the jelly fish agree, graced as we are by the presence of the exotic deadly lion’s mane, which wouldn’t usually bother with our cold summer waters. Marque 4 spotted one lurking in a rock pool along the shore at Seapoint.
He shrieked to warn people. While the no-bathing sign was being heeded, a family with little kids was playing nearby. Buckets and spades and wellie boots, but their little investigative hands could’ve been in for a shock. And then a funny thing happened. Men, women and kids gathered around us to look at the poisonous intruder. Excited banter was exchanged. A mixture of horror and pride. Tales of other spottings and risk takers ignoring the notices and swimming anyway. All in a backdrop of pride about the uncharacteristic summer we’ve just had which has invited these creatures along.
I ignore marque 2’s pleas to curtail the conversational merriment on the way to the car. I just have to make it home on time for marque 1’s late afternoon return from secondary. And I don’t let on that this is how it has been since we left them in on the first morning. Non-stop vitamin D induced conviviality. My jaw might be aching and my ears ringing. But hey. Who knows when we’ll see the like again.