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Friday, 21 March 2014

Mammy??Mammy?? Let Them Find Their Own Party!!

                                                            SAINT  PATRICK'S  DAY

The boss and her friends spill giggling from my house on St Patrick's day,  pretty faces painted with shamrocks, sinewy snakes and the like to watch the village parade. "It will be a bit of craic" she tells me sagely, when I ask her why the high.  I go out walking with my husband, and find them deflated in my hallway later on, disconsolate, straining at the bit.  "No good?" I ask.  "No, not" she sighed "It was just....... like.... Tractors?. Yeah! twenty maybe Tractors? driven up the street in a like line? That was it!. Just.... Tractors. I ask her retreating back if the Tractors came down again, in finale,  as the girls charge upstairs to her bedroom.  My husband takes me firmly by the arm and steers me out the door and onward to the Pub.

"Well, hmm, I guess they take the tractors out as a sort of prelude to spending  the National  Feast Day in the Pub?" I shout at him in the packed and howling Village Inn.  He doesn't answer. He has a pint of Guinness to work on. "Do you think they are like Vintage Tractors? that sort of thing? I asked him earlier, on our walk, as we came on the Tractors starting out. Do you think that maybe there will be something else, a..a..float maybe, or a ..um..Band?"  "Hah! they wouldn't be vintage in County Cavan anyway " he said,  "and sure what would  they bother with a Band for?"as we watched them trundle up the street, each one sporting the Irish flag at the back, driven by grinning farmers all.

 I tell him I feel I ought to go home, pile the teenagers in the car, and bring them somewhere good and worthy of their shining eyed excitement. " I mean, what an empty pointless thing, for young things looking for colour,  drama, carnival!" He grabs me firmly by the arm, and tells me to stay put "Let 'em find their own party",  he adds  " or more likely, let 'em give it up!, come down the pub like everyone else! as soon as they are old enough, of course.", he adds hastily.  And that my friends is everything that is or ever was wrong with this country, in a nutshell, on St Patrick's Day.

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                                                             OTHER  MOTHERS  

"Though I am not like asking?, my friends actually get like €50 from their parents for you know,  a  um few drinks? when they go out, on like every Friday night, every Saturday night. And often also on a Wednesday Night?  I , as you know hardly go out at all, only want $10,  a lift there,  for the two of us,   am prepared to arrange a lift back myself,  but will need, you know, a lift home tomorrow night, and will also need.... Leaving Certificate? what  do you mean my Leaving Certificate,  I cannot be expected to study twenty four seven!,  morning noon and night!, I have a life! I have a boyfriend!, I am eighteen years old! nearly!,  more or less!,  am my own boss!  So..... can I? can you??  will you?? Mammy??  Mammy??"

I ask the beautiful one if she thinks her friends' parents might like adopt her?, and hell, take me too? to work in the kitchen maybe.? She sniggers and glides of happy in the notion that that's all arranged.

Later on:
"No! I snap at my spouse, I did not agree, not as such, not to everything,  not entirely but ...you know... .. Lately I have been staring down the tunnel of her leaving. Off to college, gone,  forever more or less, the fabric of our family loosened, boss and boy filling her vacated space, not her,  never her again. .My husband assures me I am being premature....will be supporting, transporting,  feeding for a long time yet, there being many a slip between cup and lip you know... never count your chickens you know... This is a jolting interruption to my anticipatory grief.   The thought that that departure will not actually come is basically disturbing.

"So, ok, darling, fine, fine, fine " I tell him,  "My name is Irish Mammy, I am addicted to Mammying,  well in a small way,  in the halfpenny place really when it comes to some of the heavy weight Mammies,  but still..." .  "Yeah, well , the Infant Teenagers,  you better make the 'em brush up on their survival skills, you better make 'em arrange their own lifts, do their own laundry, and Ohmygod pay for their own drinks, Angel, you'd better start".  I assure him that I'm on it, and also that he should get a load of what other mothers  do for their children,  THEY wouldn't rate me in the mammy stakes.  So yeah, I'm on it, have been for years, have tried,  have fostered self reliance, some, but the truth is friends that hell is Other Mothers here.

Yes!  Irish women compete, persist in Mammying way past appropriate. There is no off switch here. There is no generational shift either. Not like you might imagine. On the contrary,  we have ramped up the nurturing good.  We bind our children to us with food, cash, sanctuary against the cold winds, the relentless exactions of adulthood and the world.  Nope? Not you? Really? Ever felt that creeping paralyzing sense of guilt on refusing your  little one's demands, that sinking feeling of unworthiness to be an Irish Mammy in Ireland among all the other Mammies who know how to mammy better so much better than you do?

To be resisted, women, to be beaten back with a stick as you give your wee one a mighty boot up the backside into the world. Otherwise just  ask yourself how you're going to manage to mammy on down into decrepitude,  how persuade yourself to keep on going  past the slender window of middle age when you might have managed to live your beautiful life, oh finally, yes!, to the nursing home, the crumbling bones, the  incontinence, your mind flying off in advance of your grateful departure.

Ask your self  how your hand reared darlings will manage your slow, messy leaving. How administer the merciful drugs even, to hasten your end.  If that was what you wanted.  How return to their own adolescent children after,  be all in all to them as you have been.  It's never too early to start  letting go though it may be too late.  To feel the unbearable lightness of your own unburdened  being. If you have the courage for it.

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Friday, 7 March 2014

Bad Catholic. Sugar Baby Love. All them Rotten Apples

On Ash Wedneday the boy advises us all that he no longer considers himself to be a Catholic. "Of course I am not, actually,  one now" he says "and I mean when you consider all those like big cars those you know Bishops have,  never mind  what what's his name the Pope says about poverty, why should I be? So I'm not".  Right.  Ok.  Thats like that then.

When I was  twelve years old I advised my father  that I no longer believed, and Catholicism, Mass going was no longer  for me. Oh how quickly, in his  scorched earth response, he let me know that that was not my decision to make. On Sundays, marched in front of him with the others to Church and priest, I decided, nonetheless.  It took him at least a year to notice my silent refusal to partake of the body of Christ, to line up for the holy communion.. "Every barrel has a rotten apple, contaminating the others" he thundered, scorched some more. I persisted. Rotten,  adamant.

Now, my daughters ask me what I am giving up for Lent. "I mean I'm giving up all chocolates, sweets, fizzy drinks"  the boss says roundly. She has an ulterior motive however, she is intent on living healthily, nurturing a beautiful mind.  "Me too.  And sugar in my tea" the beautiful girl chips in. "It will be great. Though hard.  Very hard" she adds. She also has an ulterior motive, the beautiful frame to maintain.  I ask the boy if he too is practicing umm self denial  this year. "Yep!" he says,  "Of course!" "And eh what might that.... "It's private" he snaps.  Oh.  Right.  My husband and I indulge in vulgar speculation in the privacy of the marital bedroom. "Girls?" he says, " drinkin' and smokin'?,  misogynistic rap? What you think? Or..or... I know, being obdurate!, being loud!, being breathtakingly rude.!...."

In my twelfth year, before I shrugged of all forms of organised religion, I though perhaps I might be marked out for a nun. I practiced prayerfulness, a sort of self flagellating piusness, in a tormented away. The thing about it was you knew that resistance was futile, if you were chosen. In fact it was most likely you wouldn't want to, and your obduracy would be hacked away at by God. I developed a compulsive facial twitch that year. At its end I delivered myself,  took a chance on going to hell in a hand cart, and cast the heavy cloying cloak of holiness as far from me as I could fling. I cast after it the bloody, oppressively melancholy stations of the cross at Easter,  the shuffling herd like observance at Mass.  In spirit then, in body later.

The beautiful girls come downstairs on Wednesday, heavy eyed, pasty faced, glum. "???"  It was the Pancake Tuesday pancakes, the sugar high"  the boss explains. Ah yes, they wanted to make their own this year, asking only for quantities of Sugar! Nutella!  Rasberry Jam! from me. "We will do it" they announced "no need for you to get involved".  And they did. They started with a stack for breakfast, they flipped up another after school, and had a pancake cook out after dinner. By that time they had quite run out of Nutella.  "What on earth's the matter with 'em" I asked my husband, listening to them shrieking in the kitchen, giggling helpless about the kind of stuff they usually will not let me hear. Hmm. "Sugah!" he crooned, " Sugah Baby Love,  Love you baby love,  Sugah High!"

I asked my boy if he had been denied the Nutella, the Sugar,  the Rasberry Jam, where he sat calmly in the kitchen reading his war book, bopping his head to Tupac. "Nah" he said,  "I can handle it better is all. I pace myself. I eat it all the time".  I sometime wish I could bend back time,  introduce my son to his grandfather, be a fly on that wall as they tell each other whats what, what's not, what they will and will not have,  the bottom line, the way it is,  the end of story.