Thursday, 10 April 2014

One night of victory

The Girl took part in a school quiz tonight for this part of the Bog of Allen – each village around us has a small school for children, and each small school brought their students to our town hall for the event. While letting The Girl find her classmates in an auditorium of raucous children, I greeted another parent – she’s the mother of one of The Girl’s classmates and wife of a friend of mine.   

“It’s just you tonight?” I said smiling. “Your husband gets some time to himself?”

“Ah, go on,” she said, using the local dismissive phrase. “He’s home paintin’. I don’t leave him unattended without work to keep him out of trouble.”

. . . . .

The children divided into groups of four, all from the same school, per table. On a stage, a bald and avuncular neighbour read off questions like “What mountain range in Africa shares its name with a geography book?” or “What Irish hero died a thousand years ago this Sunday?” Each question was followed by hundreds of children whispering excitedly among themselves, and scribbling down answers.  

Finally, they announced the winning group – The Girl’s table, out of the dozens that were there. The four girls at the table screamed and ran onstage to get a brass cup that all four held up together, and were promptly surrounded by cheering classmates – I thought for a moment they would lift them on their shoulders.  

I let her have her moment with friends, jumping and squealing together. As The Girl found me waiting by the door, we hugged and she said, “Daddy, can you do anything for hypothermia?”

I thought a moment and said, Hyperventilating?

“Yes, that’s it.” Just give yourself a moment, I told her – you’ll be fine.

                                                                  . . . . .

We came home hours ago, and just now The Girl knocked gently on my door. You're still awake? I said, smiling.

"I just now settled down enough that I can go to sleep," she said.

Good, I said. Now remember, tomorrow you'll see all the girls that didn't win, so be gracious -- don't bring it up unless they do, and then be modest.

"I'll try to remember," she said.

Did you take my advice? I asked -- what I recommended you do if you were too excited to sleep?

"I did, Daddy," she said. "I wrote myself a letter about how I felt tonight. I addressed it to Future Me."

I'm glad, I said -- you'll have that letter all your life, and it will stay with you when a lot of other things have faded.

"Do you write things down to keep track of your life?" she asked.

Not just mine, I said.

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