Back to School – Cartoon Illustrator
It’s good to be back. We’ve had a frazzled few months building a house extension but life is now returning to normal. And it’s back to school time, buying uniforms and queuing outside bookshops. Expense-wise, it’s not been as bad as other times with our two sons starting in 2nd and 3rd year, and daughter in Leaving Cert, given that they already have the bulk of their books from last year. Nonetheless, I’ve still had to fork out a few hundred quid on new texts and stationery.
Despite the queuing, so far my back to school experience has been pretty stress-free. I’d got their uniforms sorted weeks ago. There was no ‘last-minute’ mad panic of covering books or stitching frayed sleeves, up until all hours the night before. It helps, too, that their return dates are staggered.
Junior started first. Rising early before my alarm went off, he was ready to go while his siblings lolled in bed. Damn, no bread for sandwiches. I drove to the shop. As I queued to pay, another customer was chatting at the checkout. “Back to school?” the assistant asked. “Oh, mine started yesterday. He’s finished with Primary.” God, yes, I thought, remembering her son. “We’re back with another few years to go,” I joked, plonking the lunchbox fillers on the counter.
Sandwiches made, I wanted the obligatory photo. “Do I have to?” Junior groaned. With the other two due to start in the following days, I no longer get my ‘three kids together’ back-to-school snapshot.
Passing a nearby Primary school, I watched parents bringing their little ones to Junior Infants armed with tablets and phones to record this tentative first day. Noting the mix of smiles and anxious expressions, I revelled in my stress-free status with only a nonplussed teenager to ferry. Until I got caught in traffic.
Stuck in a convoy of cars slowly inching uphill, Junior got out. “Don’t want to be late,” he said, leaving me stalled in a bumper-to-bumper line. Only then do I notice the smell of burning rubber. And smoke? What the heck is wrong with the car? Oh sweet Jesus, there’s a big shiny merc behind me as I struggle to rev up the slope. Can’t afford to back into that. I’m sweating now, anxious as hell. Foot on the clutch, I continue to crawl and eventually manage to park. “Might be your back tyre,” a dad helpfully shouts. But the burning smell is overpowering and smoke continues to waft from under the bonnet. I hop out quickly for fear it bursts into flame.
Already hard-pressed after our house build, are we facing financial ruin with car trouble before further school costs pile up? And what lies ahead with the Junior and Leaving Cert? “Remember, you’re not doing the exam,” another mum reminded me. If I’m this frazzled, first day back, what state will I be in next June when the State Exams start? Read more next week!
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2015