Going back in time


The Day Diary
Edwin McGreal

The easing of some lockdown restrictions on Monday, June 8, brought a lot of joy. People’s ability to move freely within their own county had a high value in our family.
No sooner had the news been communicated than both my mother and my sister were on the blower, preparing for a trip to Achill.
Ensconced in Breaffy since the middle of March, they found it very difficult to be apart from the five grandkids in the family.
Work had brought me to the area on a couple of occasions, so I had been able to indulge in a couple of socially distant visits, but I’m in no doubt I was a poor substitute for the real objects of their affections!
So last Wednesday, my mother and sister made the trip to Achill. They were delighted to see Frankie and Éamon and, thankfully, Frankie recognised them and reciprocated that.
She greeted them excitedly as they arrived and when I did a test before they got out of the car by saying ‘goodbye’ to them because they ‘had to go again’ straightaway, her face betrayed her emotions straightaway. She looked heartbroken and was about to start bawling when I said I was ‘only joking’. They noticed huge changes in the kids – three months is a long time in the development of kids of the age of Frankie (three and a half) and, especially, Éamon (21 months). The ‘talk’ from both kids had come on leaps and bounds it seems. They had spoken on WhatsApp video calls, but the kids don’t tend to engage with those. Face to face is still the only way.
Frankie was beside herself with excitement when she got to try her first ‘popsicle’, a kit for which had been posted down in a box of goodies from Breaffy during lockdown – a delightful parcel to receive.
My father couldn’t make the trip. Work duty called, but he arguably made the biggest contribution of all.
When I was six or seven years old, my toy tractor, which I was beyond obsessed with, came a-cropper. A slightly older boy, who shall remain nameless, crashed it into the side of our house. Unfortunately, the tractor came out worse than he did!
It was, as my father said at the time, ‘a write-off’. The front axle was badly warped. I was devastated. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood – easy knowing I didn’t have a tough upbringing.
For reasons best known to my father, it was left in the shed for years and into decades, surviving several clear outs.
I also wondered why but never asked – I always liked to see it even if it was only of ornamental value.
Then last week I’m told to open the boot of my mother’s car and, lo and behold, there she is.
My father’s lockdown project, welding a new axle, cleaning paint off it and tidying it up for the grandkids, complete with a foghorn attached to the steering wheel. A 35-year-old toy tractor passed onto the next generation.
Frankie and Éamon have loads of toys, but none will take as much pride of place as this one. Although the foghorn may mysteriously disappear some night.

In his fortnightly column, Edwin McGreal charts the ups and downs of the biggest wake-up call of his life: parenthood.