Give me a break from kids holiday memories
Driving past the Folk and Transport Museum recently on a beautifully crisp and sunny half-term afternoon, I suddenly remembered a kiddies’ outing from many years back when Luke was just a tiny toddler.
It was a long time ago — he’s now 18 and towers above me — but the sight of a bank of daffodils jogged my memory because it was on a day just like today in early spring.
A group of us from my local Mothers and Toddlers playgroup had organised it. We all had kids of the same age and were full-time mums back then so once a month, weather permitting, we would all meet up for a day-trip to keep them entertained and us sane. The Ark Open Farm, Belfast Zoo, Pickie Fun Park and any/every forest park or playground within a 10-mile radius ... we’d been there, done that, bought the tea in the tea shop.
This place was ideal because it was safe and enclosed. There was even a stack of miniature train ride-ons for them to zoom around on, so happy days — a whole half hour when we could let them off the leash while we sat in the cafe and (usually) moaned about our husbands or bitched about their mothers.
Afterwards, when the novelty of actual life-size trains, planes and automobiles had worn off, we strolled en masse into the beautiful grounds and shared a big picnic.
Having spent a big chunk of my life on such escapades, going to so much effort so often not only to keep my kids amused but also to provide them with some fantastic memories of the past for their future, I was curious to find out just how much they could now actually recall. Especially now that they were both almost adults themselves.
So I turned to Luke, who was beside me in the passenger seat, and asked him.
“Yep, I remember it well,” he said. “Richard Stockton bashed his train into my knee and I got a huge bruise ...”
“And ...?” I said, waiting for the nice bits like a hungry seal waiting to be thrown a fish.
“Oh yeah, and when we were having the picnic I nearly choked on a sausage ...” he added after some thought.
Of course, both those events did happen but, to be honest, with two kids under five, they were such a regular occurrence in those days that I could perform the Heimlich manoeuvre with one arm while driving with the other.
“Ok, well what about when we went to the Zoo for your fifth birthday? Does that ring any happy bells?”
“Oh yes! I got stung by a bee ... and the gorilla banged on the window and made me cry.”
“Castle Espie, then: the day we went to see all the newly-hatched chicks?”
Finn, the younger of the two now chirped up from the back seat: “Oh, my God! I remember that! That was the day I tried to pick up a chick and I got attacked by a flippin’ massive Canada Goose. Been terrified of geese ever since!”
And so the catalogue of catastrophes continued all the way home ...
Q: The day out to Portrush?
A: Barry’s was closed and Luke nearly drowned in the sea.
Q: Ten-pin bowling at Dundonald, when you were eight?
A: He got his finger stuck in the ball and his nail broke off.
Q: The trip to the Odyssey to see the Belfast Giants?
A: One of the players got a tooth knocked out.
Q: The day out around the Giant’s Causeway?
A: Luke saw a car crash on the way home. Finn was car-sick.
Right! That was enough! Where were the rose-tinted reminiscences of days-gone-by that I’d spent a small fortune and so much effort attempting to nurture?
I was crestfallen. I felt like the poet John Keats in the Ode To Autumn: “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?”
The only difference was that instead of regretting the passing of time I was regretting the fact that my kids weren’t regretting the passing of time, er, if you see what I mean.
So when we got home, even though it was a school break, I gave them some homework of my own. Each was handed a big, chunky photograph album containing assorted pictures of assorted trips, treats, parties and holidays taken when they were little.
“Now get remembering, because I’m going to test you later! Happy memories only — whether you like it or not!”