They say we do funerals very well in Ireland. Well, my mum says it, because she’s Canadian, and maybe they don’t do funerals as well there. As I started class today, the mum who’d just dropped a few lads off beckoned me over. “Just to let you know, Peter and James’ dog was put to sleep today,” she said, “in case you’re wondering why they’re a little sad or distracted. Maybe don’t mention it?” I said I wouldn’t, and went back inside. One of the brothers was skipping and jumping around. I told a sad story, about letting my youngest spend six hours at sea off the coast of Cork in her little boat, in February, with no wind, with flu coming on. That was James’ cue to announce he had a sad story too. “It’s short,” he said, “our dog died.” Murmurs of sympathy went around the class. “Sorry for your loss,” said one of the other children. It was repeated once, twice, until practically everyone had said it. They knew that’s what you say. A little while later one of the girls, Caoimhe, was describing the subject of the painting she wanted to do. “I’m going to do my granny’s headstone,” she said. The girl opposite her piped up. “Sorry for your loss,” she said, then a second later, “Caoimhe! Sorry for your loss.” She has yet to learn that if the bereaved party doesn’t hear (or acknowledge) your condolence, you don’t just shout it louder. It was the expression of sadness she wore, the head slightly tilted to one side – it was so clear she was practicing being grown-up Irish people.
Last week one of the younger children, who is very precocious and needs everyone to know how much he knows, was telling me about sharks. He’s a lovely little boy and I was the exact same at his age so I’m not judging him. He has a very cute lisp. “Did you know that sharkth can eat hortheth whole?” he said. “No, I didn’t know that,” I said. “How does that happen? By putting stables too close to the water’s edge at the beach?” “Yeth,” said the little lad. Another little fella the same age piped up. “I knew that,” he said. It was all he could manage, but he couldn’t let the first lad away with it scot-free. The clever lad starts pretty much every sentence with “Did you know…?” It could be a bit annoying but it’s not – it’s as if he is bursting with the joy of discovering the world and has to let it out. If he looks clever in the process…that’s a bonus.
This is apropos of nothing – I just wanted to show you how cute or dog is. He was presented to me in that outfit yesterday morning: it was my birthday, and my youngest, Liv, wanted to give me a treat. There are few things that would have given me more pleasure than Reuben in his sailor costume. “It was all his idea, you know,” said Liv, “it was all him. He just needed a little help with the arms.” He is a very tolerant dog, but I can’t help noticing that he looked less jolly than usual in the picture, and that he went a bit doolally when I took it off.
More to come!