What’s with all this RAIN!!
“Everybody knows umbrellas will cost more in the rain.
All the news is bad. Is there any other kind?
Everybody’s talking at the same time.” (Tom Waits)
It has been a summer indoors. We hid from the deluge of rain, then from the deluge of news about the economy and the politics and the other sad stories (whatever happened to “And finally…” with the dogs driving motorcycles and monkeys training children to do card tricks?).
My wife was living the summer of Ireland past. Like an RTE documentary or a film with that grey light filter on everything, she was ‘Home with the Kids’. As a contract lecturer, she was without pay.
Being inside with kids can be tough after a while, but its worse when you know there is no escape and really think there should be. It is summer, after all. Outside, the grass is growing high enough to trap us in here for even longer.
We tried the cinema one day, but Starlight just couldn’t stick with it. We tried one of those fun-prisons where you sit and drink coffee while the kids work out all their energy trying to break out of brightly coloured foam dungeons, but this was too expensive for a (albeit temporarily) one-income family. In the house, the girls are playing, laughing, crying, fighting, shouting, crying, laughing, playing, laughing, crying, etc. My wife and I too. Laughing, crying, fighting shouting…
As the song said: Everybody talking at the same time. It is not claustrophobia; it is a build up of the various pressures of personalities filling the same space. We distract ourselves as best we can. I reread Flann O’Brien, and start a joke with the kids. They come in the door, I ask: “Is it about a bicycle?” They fall around laughing. Then they ask “Can we go out on our bikes?” and I have to say “No, sorry – it’s still raining”, then they cry.
A break. From behind a bruised sky peeks an uncertain sun. We make a break for it. Head to the Curragh, or the playground. Free, easy exercise. We are a few minutes out when the sky starts weeping once again. Woe.
Back at the house, I put on some music, which works out for a while. The girls have their songs, their bands. Then they fight over the songs and the bands, “STARLIGHT!” screams Sunshine “do as I tell you! I am your older sister and I’m the boss of you!” (Where did she get that from?) This barrage comes as a result of starlight taking too long to get upstairs, where there is a tidy corner somewhere, looking for a mess to fill it. That is the children’s responsibility.
“I’m only little” says Starlight “with little legs…” as she scurries through the sitting room toward the stairs. This is rehearsed later, when it is time for bed and she says she needs to be carried up the stairs. She scurries into her sister’s room well enough after the story is read and the light turned out.
In June, we had a 2 week staywaycation, or whatever it is called. We spent our first week in Donegal for my sister’s wedding in Lough Eske, the second we spent in west Clare. Even in the rain, the Irish landscape is impressive – especially on the west coast, where the land suffers the continual slings and arrows of outrageous winds and rains. I dream of us all with cliff-like faces, stoically facing down this weather, this economy, this summer.
My sister was married under the driving rain of a June day. The clouds broke to let us in and out of our cars and the church, then resumed a thunderous applause for the union of these two souls. My two souls were bridesmaids, which meant wearing pretty “Princess” dresses with ribands that were perfect for spilling things on. After the wedding, we travelled across from Fahan to Lough Eske for the reception. Luckily, my sister had entertainers come along and look after the children while the (so called) grownups had their dinner. A marvellous plan, made better only by the fact that my wife’s parents then took the children for the evening. Much as we love them (I have no idea why one ever needs to quantify that), it was a welcome relief to not have to be the moral and behavioural guardian for the evening. Hypocrite that I was, I drank too much, spoke too much and behaved too brashly.
We spent the next few days touring around the northwest. At Dunree fort, we had to convince Sunshine that the fort was built to protect a Princess and was staffed by Superheros (Starlight – much to my bemused delight has taken up with Superheroes the way Sunshine has taken up with Princesses. Her favourite is Mr Tayto.) After a few days travelling around the North West, we pointed the car toward Clare and let the road take us where it will.
Ensconced in Kilkee, we set about staying in again. The rain beset us there as well. We had one afternoon in the playground, where Sunshine and Starlight shot out like mercenaries, playing on every piece of equipment in every way possible. Swings were climbed, slides were hurdled, see saws were jumped from. Another day, we got down to the beach and the kids got to build sandcastles and complain later when the sand was stuck to them by the rain. One day of wind (but no rain), just after getting paid, we got ourselves some kites and headed back to the beach. The wind twisted our cheap kites inside out. It seemed like we weren’t getting a break on this break. But the girls laughed for a while, hanging onto string and tangling themselves up trying to run with the kites to raise them all the better.
Then the rain barged in on us; it was late for work on a project with the wind to make a miserable day. I like to think of myself as a progressive Dad type, not the old-fashioned “We’re here to have fun and by Christ we’ll have it: rain or shine.” type. It turns out; my wife is that latter type. I plead with her, as I untangle Starlight from strings and psychedelic pieces of plastic, “We better go home… it’s raining”
“No, it’ll be fine!” she says with mendacious cheer. She is out and she will be damned if she is going back in. The wind whips up some sand to fling against us with the rain. Starlight is running one way, Sunshine has started to cry.
“No, it’ll pass” (secretly, I believe she is gloating because her kite has been flying for more than 13 seconds – my record)
“Come ON! You’re only gloating because your kite is flying longer!” (There’s that shout that Sunshine had, but coming from me). Now the kids are really crying. Starlight wants to go home. Sunshine wants ice cream. My patience has blown away with the wind.
My wife turns round, as if awaking from hypnotic state
“We better go” she says. “It’s really raining now.”