An hour or so ago I stood in the doorway and waved as Pauline and Susanna drove off in the lashing rain – heading to Dublin, and planning to pick up some friends en route. Susanna is starting university life, which is very exciting for her. For the first time in 20 years Pauline and I will be living on our own, although Susanna will come home frequently.
I have been tidying my office and weeding my files this weekend. In a letter I wrote to Steve, a former colleague in England, dated 8 July 1996, I found this:
Sean is almost five years old now, and has finished his first year at school, which he loved from the first day. He can do a bit of writing, but hasn’t got the hang of reading yet. He’s very outgoing and likes virtually everybody he meets, and he seems to be very popular with other kids: he’s always had a certain charisma. He’s a perpetual enthusiast: on being given a hand-me-down football jersey the other day his reaction, typically, was ‘Great! Now I can be in a team!’
He’s good at swimming (with water wings) and drawing; he’s also very stubborn and can be exasperating. He often seems to provoke people deliberately in order to see how they’ll react, especially Susanna, but in general the two of them get on very well: she is just as stubborn and will stand her ground fearlessly. She will be three in November, and is a real little character with a good sense of humour and an initial shyness with people she doesn’t know that Sean never showed: she talks non-stop except when someone she doesn’t know well is present. I think people who see her only rarely don’t believe she can talk at all.
They’re both lovely kids, very good-natured and affectionate, and – however much they may annoy us at times – we’re very proud of them. As I write, they’re both asleep and Pauline is in the shed painting the ‘Buzz Lightyear’ costume that she and Sean made out of cardboard boxes for a fancy dress party at the ‘summer school’ he’s going to at the moment (the next day: Sean won a prize for his costume, much to his delight).
13 responses to “4 September 2011”
Childhood happiness sets people up for life. It is the foundation stone and a permanent source of strength. Susanna will be building on that solid base for the rest of her life and Sean’s happiness is still affecting people.
Hello Cymbeline … thanks for this. I think what you say is true, and I’m glad we were able to give them a good start.
There is a great deal of communication, love and fun in the photograph. Sean is looking at Susanna and Susanna knows this. She is looking at a third person who is not visible in the photograph (you? Pauline?). The fourth person (you? Pauline?) is taking the photograph and the children are aware of that fourth person’s presence. Very dynamic lines of interaction. At the same time, the children are cuddling and enjoying the feel of their toy dogs. Sean’s dog could be real. Is it?
The children’s coloured clothes, the checked tablecloth and the carnations are lovely and it is a bit naughty to be sitting on the table.
Pauline nearly always took the photos. I was probably in the room. Sean’s dog is a toy … we had no pets until we moved to the country.
We still have the table … it’s our kitchen table now. We have some captain’s chairs that go with it – I don’t know whether this makes it a captain’s table. It has another leaf. Yes, a bit naughty to be up on it. Pauline was putting up that wallpaper when she went into labour with Susanna.
Pauline used to tie-dye tee-shirts with the children – Sean’s is one of those. We all wore tie-dyed tee-shirts around that time.
So it is a toy after all. It seemed possibly real to me because of the particular way Sean is holding it. He seems to know about living creatures and how to hold them carefully. Both children seem to know about holding animals carefully.
Yes … we have some nice photos of them with animals when small … one of Sean holding a rabbit when he was at playschool that I must find and post sometime.
Susanna enjoyed her first day living in Dublin … she made some new friends, and is planning to join the drama and dance societies. So we’re pleased about that.
Hi Brendan, A lot of history in that table! Great picture of Sean and Susie with their ‘pets’. That table could tell some stories if it were able! We used to drop both leaves and use it as a hiding place probably 30+ years before Sean and Susanna enjoyed it. Maybe Susanna’s kids will enjoy it someday too! It’d be nice to think that.
Really glad that Susanna is enjoying Dublin I’m sure she’ll do very well.
Hi Dave … yes, I’m fond of the table too. On Sean’s birthday, when Mossie arrived the first thing he did was set his open can of Devil’s Bit down on the table … the leaf immediately collapsed, sending the can on the floor and spilling some of the cider … it was as if Sean was playing a trick on Mossie.
Yes, a good start for Susanna … I hope K will settle in quickly when she goes to college too. I’m sure she will.
Funny about the leaf collapsing and sending the can of Devil’s Bit to the floor. ‘Devil’s Bit’. What a great name.
I gather that the table is a bit of a family heirloom. My grandmother had an oak table with two leaves, perhaps similar to the one in the photograph. It was very old and beautifully polished. It came from my grandfather’s side of the family and is now in my parents’ home. Like Dave, I remember being under it when the leaves were down. I would sit inside the rectangle of folded wooden bars. My grandmother’s shy corgi used to spend a lot of time in there too. Small children are always aware of what goes on close to the floor or the ground. The amazing thing about the table was how many people could sit around it when both leaves were up. It seemed like a magic table to me. It is much harder to put a lot of people around a square table. My grandmother had a pile of stools ready for times when the extended family descended on her for meals. She used to call us ‘the gang’. The stools were very light and small children were always falling off them and hitting their heads on the floor or the Welsh dresser.
Glad to hear that Susanna is enjoying Dublin. Why am I not surprised to learn that she has joined the dance and drama societies? I hope that Dave’s daughter will enjoy college life too.
Thanks, Cymbeline. You’re right about children and tables and floors. Our table is probably similar to your grandmother’s, and a surprising number can eat at it, as you say. When we had a kitchen music session in July, someone brought some small, light stools. Perhaps surprisingly, nobody fell off them. I think we still have them, as their owner doesn’t want them.
I always hesitate before writing the word ‘stool’.This is because I remember asking my mother why the doctor used the same word for something different. She thought for a minute and then said that she supposed it was something to do with the fact that people sit on both sorts of stool. I was of course familiar with the temporary aspect of sitting on my grandmother’s stools.
‘My grandmother kept a pile of stools’
‘Someone brought some small light stools’
Perhaps the owner of the afore-mentioned items of furniture hopes that there will be more kitchen music sessions.
If so, he’ll get his wish.
I can’t hear the phrase ‘falling between two stools’ without thinking of that other meaning …