FIONA LOONEY

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - KITCHEN SINK DRAMA Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

The sum­mer clothes changeover used to last al­most a week in our house. Chil­dren grew faster and at­ten­tion spans were shorter then. I would start, some time be­fore the May bank hol­i­day, by tak­ing down all the plas­tic bags of sum­mer clothes from the top of the wardrobes and spilling their colour­ful contents all over the bed­room floors. Ev­ery year, with­out fail, the sight of all th­ese lit­tle shorts and T-shirts would draw a col­lec­tive ‘ooh’ from their ex­pec­tant own­ers. Win­ter clothes never get the same reaction. Their colours are too dull and, well, it never seemed as though it had been very long since we last saw them.

But sum­mer clothes sug­gest hol­i­days and ice-cream and sun­tans and swim­ming pools. They also, for years, were a re­li­able yard­stick of just how much the chil­dren had grown. The Small Girl, who never stretched very far at all, had the con­so­la­tion of sev­eral sea­sons in her favourite clothes and the prom­ise that, one day, she would even­tu­ally fit into the handme-downs gifted from my best friend’s big­ger, older daugh­ter. The Boy grew at an as­ton­ish­ing rate but it never re­ally mat­tered be­cause very, very few of his clothes sur­vived a sin­gle sum­mer. If there was a choco­late stain to be got on a T-shirt, it would get on his. If shorts were to tear, they would be his shorts. Most sum­mers, he would get kit­ted out in new clothes from head to toe, though it never stopped him oohing along­side his neater, less stretchy sis­ters.

The Youngest fared best of all, of course. Her own lovely lit­tle clothes usu­ally fit­ted for a cou­ple of years and her sis­ter’s cast- offs were al­ways wel­comed with a de­lighted ‘I was hop­ing this might fit me this year!’. But for all the fes­tive­ness of the changeover, it was lit­er­ally im­pos­si­ble to per­suade three lit­tle peo­ple to try on an end­less ar­ray of colour­ful clothes in a sin­gle ses­sion. On a good run, you might get two of them into three out­fits, be­fore they’d start moan­ing or weep­ing or sim­ply wan­der off, half- dressed. And so, the whole process would last any­thing up to a week, with me dress­ing them through stealth and sub­terfuge across the days. ‘Just pop this on be­fore you put on your jim­mies’ was a pop­u­lar one. ‘When you’re chang­ing for train­ing, just throw

A girl just shy of 16 doesn’t ooh at very much, least of all a mod­est col­lec­tion of sum­mer clothes that are so last year

on those shorts for a minute’ oc­ca­sion­ally worked. Even­tu­ally, the piles of clothes on the floor would di­min­ish and the bags, re-packed with the win­ter clothes, would be stashed away again. It was sum­mer. Of­fi­cial.

This year, it took about an hour. An hour. De­press­ingly, this is the first year I can re­call in which I didn’t have to make an emer­gency sor­tie into the sum­mer bags ahead of the of­fi­cial changeover; if any­thing, there was a sense of grimly cling­ing onto the win­ter wardrobe for fear of op­ti­mism-in­duced hy­pother­mia. Still, May is May and so the sum­mer bags were dragged down from their hi­ber­na­tion. And.

And a girl who is a cou­ple of weeks short of 16 tends not to ooh at very much at all, least of all a mod­est col­lec­tion of clothes that are

so last year. So I put her bag in her room, un­ex­am­ined, and asked her to go through it and give me back any­thing she didn’t want. An hour later, the bag was back in my room. As far as I can tell, it is un­touched.

The Boy’s bag con­tained four pair of shorts, none of which, I was fairly sure, would fit him. And since he has the pa­tience of a gnat, I didn’t par­tic­u­larly want to hang around to find out, and so his bag was also put into his bed­room with sim­i­lar in­struc­tions. Now his, I am absolutely cer­tain, has not been touched, be­cause it is still in ex­actly the same spot on his floor where I left it.

Which only left The Youngest. And for her, I spilled out two large bags, all over my bed, and she oohed and she aa­hed and, be­cause she is no longer distracted by bright and shiny things, she tried them all on, right there. And an hour later, it was sum­mer.

The sum­mer clothes changeover used to be re­ally hard work. Now it’s a dod­dle. An hour af­ter it started, I was left alone in my bed­room, sur­rounded by bags that no longer have any place or evoke any real sen­ti­ment in three pre­vi­ously small lives. All that re­mained was for me to do my own clothes. I spilled them out on my bed and sum­moned a small ‘ooh’. But there was no­body there to hear it.

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