Denis Lehane: First day of school for last of the flock

Monday was a traumatic day for me. It was our little girl Emma’s first day in school and I found it a harrowing experience. No father should have to go through it.

“Why does she have to go?” I wailed, as my missus gently lead her by the hand out the front door.

“Because she’s going to school,” says she, and she gesturing at me to stop all the cnámh shawling.

But how could I stop, and my little girl leaving the house.

“Why?” I roared again, and then I ran and desperately tried to block them at the door. “Take me instead,” I beseeched my missus, “leave the poor girl here. What harm has she done?”

“I can’t take you instead, you big baboon,” says she. “Are you gone mad entirely?”

“Blast you woman,” I cried, falling to my knees. “People have always said I’m ignorant. Take me to school instead of poor Emma. Mrs Creedon will understand. I’ll blend in somehow. I’ll do my sums. I’ll be a good boy! I’ll even wear a short pants.”

But alas, there was no talking to her. All my begging and pleading was to no avail. Little Emma, our four-and-a-half-year-old, went to Kilmurry National school on Monday morning and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

All our six children are now in school, they have flown the coop and we have been left alone. The years have certainly gone by quickly and with no baby in the house, regrettably I have to face the fact that I am getting old. So is it any wonder then, that I am in such a state of bewilderment.

Of course, the more callous amongst you might suggest that we should go again and keep the baby show on the road for another spell.

As if having a baby was the easiest thing in the world. As if all a fellow had to do was snap his fingers and a baby would appear.

Well let me tell you, I mightn’t know much but I know that it takes more than snapping your fingers to make a baby appear.

And I fear at this stage in my life any attempt at doing so could put me in mortal danger.

Let me explain as delicately as I possibly can by putting it into farming context. Up the yard in the dairy I have an old Manus pipeline milking machine.

Once the pride and joy of the farm, in its heyday it was a machine that could hum all day long. During my milking years it was rarely idle and it never let me down. Yerra, the Manus was a mighty yoke to go.

Anyhow, all this changed one day, when I decided to take a different road in my farming life. I no longer needed the old Manus and it has been idle ever since. Gathering dust with almost five years.

Now if I was plucky enough to stroll up the yard tomorrow morning and start the Manus, there is every reason to suspect that after bellowing out smoke, and banging and backfiring, the thing would blow sky high.

And it’s the very same with me. Sure how do I know that I too, like the old Manus, wouldn’t fall to pieces at this stage? Time and tide waits for no man. I could do myself terrible harm.

So no, my baby days are over. Emma is our sixth and our last.

And so on Monday we watched as she, like many others, bravely trotted off into a new world of wonder and fun. And with a new chapter in her life about to begin, a huge chapter in ours has sadly come to an end.


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