It is the eve of marque 3’s10th birthday and we, the parents, are pinching ourselves for different reasons. Now that the balance is about to be tipped in favour of the double digits amongst the kids, that is. I throw it out there, wistfully, and he picks it up, blissfully, and we are singing various hymns from the one sheet.
‘I can’t believe it. Three in double digits. How can that be?’
‘I know, phew’ he says laughing. ‘It’s great, isn’t it?’
‘Great? How can it be great? It’s going too fast. Flying along. I’d just like a little pause button you know? Freeze them all for a bit and just be here, all together, now, enjoying this time. Sure before we know it they’ll…’
‘But the really tricky years are behind us…’
‘They weren’t so tricky though, were they?’
‘Well compared to now they were. Broken sleep. Nappies. Buggies’.
Ah god, the buggies. Aren’t they great though, for stringing the old shopping on? Passing rice crackers (I swear) to the outstretched little hands. Climbing Killiney Hill recently marque 2 reminded me about the summer days when I’d take them for a walk there, and they’d have to help me to carry the buggy, baby an’ all up the steep steps. Ah god, those were the days. There were many, many buggies but some stand out more than others. The double buggy, a long heavy train of a thing. Two in it. Two holding on to the sides. You could get in through shop doors with it, slimness being the attraction, but then you might just have to reverse back out, turning it being the flaw. It was a sociable yoke though, inviting stares and comments and even friendship with others afflicted with the same type of a thing. Later on there was the red throne of a buggy – an indulgent purchase for the last baby – that we reversed over at Powerscourt Waterfall. Without him in it, thankfully, but unnerving nonetheless (you see, you see how stressed and stretched we were?) It was replaced by a not so regal sage green thing, which – possibly unimpressed – he mastered climbing out of within a week, and that was it. The last of the buggies. It took me a while to work out what to do with my arms at the end of the buggy days. Leave them to swing uselessly at my sides or fold them defensively across my chest? Ten odd years of buggy pushing will do that to a person.
I have a selective memory all the same. It weeds out that which will not serve me. Leaves me with the most perfect version of events. I pinch myself now to jog it along, to throw me some flash backs of the horror of sleep deprived nappy filled days. They will not come though. I can’t even remember any of them crying as babies. That’s how bad it is. Oh well.
Marque 5 is busy massaging the shoulders of the relieved parent while his brothers line up fighting for their turn. He has strong knot-sourcing thumbs and offers a variety of massage types – karate chops, piano fingers, the elbow speciality and the spider.
‘Hey, I could open a massage shop when I’m older and you guys can all come along’ marque 5 announces.
‘Yes, and I could open an art shop next door to it’ marque 2 adds.
‘And I’ll open a technology fix it shop on the other side’ marque 3 offers.
‘And I’ll design and build all the shops’ marque 4 throws in, and they all laugh as that’s exactly what he’ll be up to.
I look on at them, huddled together, being massaged by ‘the baby’ and projecting excitedly about their adult lives. The assumption that they will all still be huddled somehow, somewhere, is firm within them. Knowing that this will not be the case tears at my insides. On this, the eve of the tipping, I say nothing. Nothing at all. I hold the image close, take a deep breath and ready myself to embrace being over the hump. Whatever that is.
Happy birthday baby boy.