Summer is a time of change in families. When the children are young it is the welcome break from routine and the gradual orientation to their promotion to senior infants, sixth class, fourth year. You’re busy, you’re broke (there is no free education in Ireland!) but there’s a sense of order and control. Your list is the only list in town and is the safeguard and guarantee of readiness for the next step. Twistables, lunch boxes, shoes and keyrings; booklists, uniforms, bus tickets. Sorted.
The first Leaving Cert* changes that. It turns out there is a door in this family which leads to The World. It has always been there but has never been used. You stand in the shop holding a duvet cover in one hand and a toasted sandwich maker in the other and wonder what on earth you’re doing there. Any smile you have ever painted on as a mother becomes insignificant compared to the one you are doing right now.
In house Francis-Devine this is the last Leaving Cert year and each of the ‘children,’ are making a big move. The eldest is moving from MSc to workplace; middle is moving across the water for a Masters and youngest is heading for college for the first time. This is our transition year! The dates are in the calendar. August 13th, September 3rd and September 16th. Lists are being made; deposits paid. Mental and emotional shifts are happening on a daily basis.
I am no longer the captain of the summer. I stand by. Now it is mine to remind, ask, fund, discuss, broach, support, drive and reassure. Mine to pride, if it were a verb. I am prouding. Mine to pray. Mine to wonder whether, what if, should and could. But not to answer. Mine to quietly watch as they move around the house. These bodies which I have treasured and protected; fed, clothed and held and which they wear and use so lightly, as they should. Their faces appear at the top of the stairs with news or queries. I am seeing them in detail.
This is not the time to slow them down. Heaven knows I don’t want to. Go them! But within myself there is a still point and I look out from there. In this place the day of their birth is today. The person they were at four, seven, twelve and sixteen is at once the young adult emptying the dishwasher beside me. I hold and perceive them in one moment, one knowledge, one love as they, as yet, do not. This era is ending for sure, but it is all the one with the next phase, the next challenge, their individual lives and the life of the family. I am seeing this now, on this summer day, and it gives me joy for all that is to come.
*Leaving Cert is the equivalent of A level in the UK system.