Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Catherine Drea

As I See It: Catherine Drea’s fortnightly column as published in the Waterford News & Star

I THINK I have become numb to the death toll. I see the statistics everyday and I wonder, how could it have come to this? Then I remember that I have to stay at home, keep my head together and stay healthy. That has the effect of suppressing as many of my feelings as possible. For now.

I think this is the same for a lot of people. I forgive myself and all of us. It is what it is. Someday we will have time to commemorate our loved ones and grieve together. Just not today.

We wait; for a proper family gathering, for what would have been a true celebration, to gather at the grave . But we each have to wait alone.

I was thinking about all the young people of the country tied to home and their parents interminably. Their waiting must be very challenging too. Dreams of careers, freedom, rambling with friends, parties, all on hold. I remember the first time I experienced that, when the most exciting life possible opened up. It was when I was about eight years old and finally managed to escape the supervision of adults!


‘Waiting to restart living our full lives must be hardest for the young. Even if they don’t have the incredible freedom that we had in the old days, they still have so much craic to look forward to.’


Our family had moved to Number 2 of a new housing estate with builders still on site and wild meadows all around. There were herds of horses in the fields and gangs of kids from neighbouring estates wandering around looking for craic.

In those days as soon as breakfast was over, you were shown the door. Our new back garden was still a pile of rubble so we would ramble out onto the unfinished roads. Next door in Number 1 was a Gaelgeoir family of boys in Aran jumpers. They kept to themselves and we never got to know them. On the other side in Number 3 was what used to be called “an only child” but she wasn’t let out so we never got to know her either. The main interest in the area was a family of six children who lived in an old cottage with a vegetable garden and a chubby baby in a pram.

I first met them wheeling their baby out for a walk. The eldest boy, Sean, was the same age as myself, eight going on nine. He was in charge of his siblings, as I was in my family. We hit it off straight away and so began our daily adventures.

The adults had absolutely no idea what we were doing or where we were going. Let me just reiterate, this was completely normal in those days! Sometimes we went out into the fields amongst the horses. Usually there we met marauding gangs of boys and girls from other estates. Sometimes there were phony wars with insults flying and sticks to threaten each other. Mostly we were madly curious about each other and we would hang out in trees talking until it was time to go home to eat.

I don’t know how we knew to go home for dinner in the middle of the day? At some point we would scatter and get fed meat, veg and loads of spuds with butter. In no time we would be sent on our way and turfed out on the road to play again.

Often we were out late into the summer evenings. Our Dad would appear at the latest possible moment and start bellowing for us to come in immediately. We would be loath to go home, but there was always tomorrow.

We used to pester the delivery men. It was common for lads to be hanging out of the milk float helping the Milkman on his rounds. The Vegetable Man, as we knew him, was a friendly man and he often took us in the van if there was space. We would go spinning all over the place. Again our parents had no idea that we were bouncing around amongst sacks of potatoes and peering into other people’s gardens all over the city.

We once got home late from one of these jaunts to be met by my Father with a very unhappy face. I can only imagine now how scary that would have been for him. But to us, he was a bit of nuisance trying to cramp our style.

My family and Sean’s got up to plenty of mischief during the time we lived near each other. From “borrowing” materials to build our own den, to traipsing to the corner shop to buy far too many sweets when we had a few pence. Those kids were amongst the most wonderful I ever played with. Free spirited, wild and imaginative.

Waiting to restart living our full lives must be hardest for the young. Even if they don’t have the incredible freedom that we had in the old days, they still have so much craic to look forward to.

All of us just have to wait a bit longer.

Catherine Drea blogs at Foxglovelane.com

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By Catherine Drea
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