Are we there yet?

Paddy prepares for his final performance at school

Monday, 29 June 2009, late afternoon:

Frazzled Mother: Are you sure the suitcase isn’t under your bed?

Officially Mature Younger Son: Yes.

(Frazzled Mother pushes rugs out of the way, starts pulling dusty suitcases and bedding in plastic cases out from under her bed, dust everywhere.)

Frazzled Mother: (Desperation rising with the clouds of dust) I can’t find it.

Officially Mature Younger Son: (Turns head slightly, glancing at the edge of his bed) Oh look, here it is.

Frazzled Mother: Aaaaargggghhh!!!

A few hours later:

Paddy, rushing back and forth and up and down the hall: “I can’t find any socks! Where have all the socks disappeared?” Christopher, who generally takes responsibility for putting clothes away, freezes and gives his brother an icy glare. Paddy retreats. A few minutes later, Paddy comes storming back down the hall shouting, “I’ve been cheated, I’ve been short-changed! I buy my own socks with my own money, and where do they end up? All my socks are in Dad’s drawer! How did all my socks end up in Dad’s drawer?!” I adamantly refuse to be drawn into the never-ending Sock Wars. No comment. Paddy continues packing.

Before Paddy's final exams

Tuesday, 30 June 2009, 4:16 am:

As I reach for the coffee pot, Christopher strides into the kitchen and sternly demands: “What can you tell me about Fluxus?” At that point, to be honest, not very much that would be likely to be of any use to him for his final school exams that morning.

A kind of deja-vu: When Christopher was about four, he became obsessed with the French Revolution, borrowed all the books and videos he could find in the library, spent inordinate amounts of time thinking out loud about the French Revolution. Then early one morning, as I was reaching for the coffee pot, I heard myself saying, absurdly, with barely repressed exasperation: “Christopher, I have no idea why someone would invent a machine specifically for the purpose of chopping people’s heads off. All I can tell you is that you have your pants on backwards. Again. The zipper is supposed to be in front.” It is somehow reassuring that from kindergarten all the way through to his final finishing exams, Christopher has not lost his passion for history, his inexorable tenacity in pursuing every detail of historical periods, situations and groups that capture his attention and fire his imagination. His grandfather would be pleased.

Christopher, ready for his final examsA few hours later: As Paddy is just landing in Frankfurt on his way to Albuquerque, Christopher faces the examining commission for his final oral exams, wearing a suit from his paternal grandfather and his maternal grandfather’s tie from Ireland.

Almost there.

Wednesday afternoon, the Sock Wars continue:

In a clothing shop in the middle of town, Christopher stands manically waving a bundle of socks from a sales table: “We have to buy more socks. Paddy took all the socks.”

“We”? I’m the one with the credit card.

I still refuse to be drawn into the Sock Wars. I maintain a strictly neutral position. Nevertheless, I secretly suspect that socks in our household have long since ceased to obey any conventional laws of mathematics or physics. As the Sock Wars shift into the realm of mythology or epic legend, there is no end in sight. I resign myself to using my credit card again to buy more socks.

At the train stationOn June 25th Paddy passed his final oral exams, finishing school six days before Christopher, who had started school two years before him, thirteen years ago. Paddy took great delight in reminding his brother of this fact continuously for six days. Then on June 30th, Paddy left for the US to take an extensive road trip with my brother Patrick to California and then on up the west coast of North America into Canada. On the same day, Christopher passed his final oral exams and got in line that evening to receive first his brother’s diploma and then his own at the graduation ceremony – causing some confusion and considerable amusement. On July 2nd Christopher and his friend Alex set off for Ireland.

Now it is Saturday, July 4th, and I don’t actually know for sure where exactly my sons are right now. I imagine that Paddy is somewhere in the broad general vicinity of Hollywood, and Christopher is in Dublin. It is oddly reassuring to think that, for the moment, for now, both of the boys are where they somehow ought to be.

I have have no idea where we will go from here, but I’m sure we will be able to figure it out together.

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