Hit by the whiff of a half-cooked feast as I bound through the back door on the eve of it.
Back from childhood border crossings with my Da to pick a last minute gift for my Ma in exotic high street shops, in a city without a high street. Stopping off for chips doused in silence in the Strand Road Café before navigating friendly torch-lit interrogations on the way back through. Cockneyed requests for “drivers license please, Sir” followed further on by native demands to know if we’d “any goods to declare?”. Back from the yearly sore arse cultivated from sitting on bottles of Black Tower and Blue Nun. The height of sophistication for the discerning diner’s table. A table always cleared before dessert and the occasional arm-wrestling tournament. We lived in a developing county; the concentration distracted us from the central heating my Dad is still fond of rationing.
Back after swearing blind I’d never go back. From the Dublin bus after the first semester on the brink of dropping out. Dropping down for a drink to the pub to re-unite with old classmates to commandeer our corner of it. Spotting yer man out of the corner of my eye; the later lighting-up together as good as being told to get your coat.
Back in the small hours and being woken not long after by Bart Simpson ordering me to “Get up and get outta bed”; my Mother at the doorway, pissing herself laughing at her present of a talking alarm clock. Inadvertently getting her back by accidentally leaving the sacred sprouts I’d been sent out for behind in the pub.
The Bart Simpson Alarm Clock. HiLARious.
Back all grown up but reverting to our bickering ways in the year 19…20..oh take your pick. Back to slammed doors and exploited windows of opportunity our parents threatened to put us out for even if we were in our…30s. Maintaining a ceasefire for the duration of Top of the Pops before scrambling for the remote to prevent Mrs. Windsor from addressing the room.
Back-to-back films and phonecalls from far away relatives my parents hoped each other would answer. Reading back over wish lists of goals composed for the year ahead with cross-legged concentration alongside my best mate in my bedroom. Listing the qualities of our respective future partners through wild guesses of the other. Paring those down to a bare-boned sex preference by 33.
Back to the website booking page after being struck by a gnawing feeling as I smiled my way down Waterloo en route to the airport. The airport I had mistakenly booked to fly into instead of out from. Back eventually with relief to a livelier looking tree replacing the vague question mark the old single set of lights used to aptly resemble.
Putting back the cards they gave one another on the mantelpiece after reading. Hand-writing getting smaller, much like their frames. Closing over another card written to a wife, unable to reconcile herself to her new title.
Back for fewer days with each passing year. Escaping the resurrection of barren shelves and the unbearably empty nest atmospherics pervading the house on the day the decorations come down. Back to the room as her tears rolled down waving her boys back to college through the window; twin foiled turkey legs poking out from each bag. Drops getting heavier as they grew smaller from view. Having her back with reminders to hang in till January 6th and the night we’d have. On Women’s Christmas. Little Christmas. Nollaig na mBan. When she and I would traditionally leave the remaining fir to fend for themselves and trot out for dinner in smug satisfaction.
We’ll raise a glass of orange juice on the sixth again this year. To celebrate our wee one’s birthday. To many occasionally happy returns.