It’s finally here. The over the edge point is simple in the end. Perhaps it always is. Now I reckon I’m dealing with burn out in all its glory. It was only a matter of time. May was a month of celebrations and the soaring stress levels which accompany such things. A mid-May Communion followed by an end of May Confirmation and a smattering of birthday celebrations. There’s a myriad of other things peppering the last week preventing me from forging ahead with the preparations. An X-ray which takes an entire morning for example. But it’s the paint that does it in the end. Tips me into the abyss. He emerges from school, Confirmation two days away, with thick white paint on his black shoes. Speckled in his dark hair. Sprayed over his shirt. They were enlisted. Instead of doing art class they ‘helped’ to paint a school yard mural. With real exterior paint. A lovely idea. Great fun. Until.
‘I think the teacher hadn’t thought it through properly’ he says, gingerly, to my speechless face.
‘She looked a bit shocked when she saw the paint on everyone’s trousers and shirts and shoes’.
Shocked? I’ll show her shocked.
‘Because she told us to take off our jumpers and ties but she didn’t figure out the rest’.
‘And it was on the soles of our shoes and it was being walked through the school afterwards, on the polished floors and…’
‘How? How? How?’ I hear myself ask someone, anyone, tapping my head on the steering wheel.
‘Can somebody just tell me how the hell this has happened? Two days, just two days, what…’
‘And you should see my friend’s uniform’ he says to temper me. ‘It’s much worse than mine. Destroyed. That’s what the teacher called it. Destroyed’.
‘How? Why? What? What the…’
My mind is trying to process the plausibility of acquiring new shoes two days before the big event. The logistics. The finances. The likelihood of there even being such a thing as a school shoe in the country at the end of the school year. I wonder if a little weeping would help matters. If I shouldn’t just close my eyes, throw my head back and yowl. Perhaps then it’d be all fixed. Hardly a philosophical response but then again I’m sick and tired of having to be stoical and grateful and mindful. A good old howling’s much more truthful. Anyhow, I don’t quite manage it, failure that I am, and reach instead for the white spirits (no not the gin, although now that you mention it…) I rub and I scrub and the white paint remains stubbornly stuck, laughing at me. I consider painting black over it. If only we had a nice tin of black gloss. To hell with it. There’ll have to be new ones. The white spirits have made them look worse, smudged the leather while not doing a thing to relieve the paint.
He sails in from the big world out there to be greeted by my ‘you’ll never guess what happened’ domestic yarn. His response is not what I’m hoping for. A little joining in on the ‘how, how, how’ would be nice. A ‘my, my, you just never can tell what’s going to happen in a day’. No. His response is true to form. Powered by real interactions with real people in the real world. And being thanked for it.
‘That’s no bother. I’ll have that off in no time at all. Just spit and elbow grease is all that’s required there’.
‘Well I tried already with something a lot stronger, so good luck with the old spittle’ I say, jealous of his big world view where paint on Confirmation shoes is a mere trifle of a thing. How I’d love to feel like that. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel just like that?
June has seen the stress levels stay at a steady high with fiddly ends to be tied up all over the place. It has seen marque 2 off on a 3 day school tour, away from home without us for the first time. No contact whatsoever. We survived. He thrived. But now he leaves primary school. It’s hitting him hard. The great group of pals will disperse to their different secondary schools.
‘But you’ll still all be great pals’ I toss at him as a salve.
‘It won’t be the same though, we won’t see each other every day, I don’t want this to end’.
Neither do I.
As endings go though they have a pretty spectacular one. All nine of them are invited on their last Friday back to one friend’s house. They have a ball. On Sunday they are treated to an afternoon of Karting by one of the Dads. They taxi with him out there, have a blast and then back to his house for pizza. Then on Tuesday they leave the school for the last time. A guard of honour is formed outside by the rest of the boys. The 6th classes emerge and wend their way through to applause and high fives and the younger boys singing out their version of Adele’s ‘Someone like you’…
We’ll never find someone like you
We wish nothing but the best for you
Come visit us someday
In our hearts you’ll always stay
Sixth class you have been great
We’ll miss you in sport, work and play
Muffled sobs from parents of the leaving boys accompanies the singing. It’s too much. This ending for the parents. But this is just the beginning of the end. There’s a graduation Mass followed by the individual wishes for the future of each boy being released up into the sky in a white balloon. The basket case mothers take shots of their son’s wishes flying high and the dads clap and cheer. But it is still not over. There’s a show to entertain the parents and relatives. A band and tricks and skits and laughter. Then marque 2 takes the microphone to sing solo. I had tried to deter him, like any good mother would. What if it all goes horribly wrong? What if the notes go or the words go? What if…? Can you not get a few pals to join in? ‘I’m going to do it Mum’ he had told me ‘because if I don’t I might regret it’. Simple as.
He stands up to the packed hall and releases his voice into the silence. Kodaline’s High Hopes interpreted and sung by a 12 year old, a hymn to the future for these dispersing boys. It’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen. I know a couple of words in that my heart is safe from an impending attack. It is a beautiful moment. Tissues are wrenched from sleeves and pockets to dab at stinging eyes. Something shifts in me too. If he can do that, he can do anything, and so can we all. So stop sweating the small stuff. Laugh about all the mini-annoyances, the paint on the shoes. That’s how it makes you feel. That the future is bright and safe in the hands of these brave young adventurous funny people. Come and join them.