Kitty in post ear-tickle bliss!
What is it about the moment when she goes? That feeling in my chest as I watch her car drive down the bohreen, waving to me as she sets out to visit her family and friends back in England.
Part of me has been looking forward to the time I’ll spend here alone, and doubtless a substantially larger part of her is pleased to get way from me for a while too.
So there I am on the front step, waving goodbye, with a wistful ripple of beautiful melancholy wafting through my chest. In the words of the great Labi Siffre, ‘It must be love!’
In that instant I wish I’d given her more of a hug, wonder why I’d said that to her, or not more readily forgiven her for saying blah blah blah. I create artificial anxieties about how her leaving might have been more pleasurable for her, more easy, more loving.
As husband and wife, you live together, share your stresses and create new ones, have your ups and downs and live out languorous lists of clichés such as this.
Rarely do we think of our partners as heroic, because each day we experience all of their wonderfully human fallibilities. Sadly it’s often only when we’re apart that we realise our partners are heroes.
We all think we’re heroes at one time or another. However, in the same way that it’s impossible to be ‘cool’ if you think you are, real heroes tend to be people who do not announce their heroism.
Your scribbler has been known to declare that he is a hero. When feeling fragile and insignificant I’ll announce that I was a hero today, and watch the Snapper try desperately to form an impressed look upon her face, as I reveal that single-handedly I’d finished the laundry, or mended a picture frame, turned the compost or cleared a drain. Whatever it was that I’d done, heroism had no place in it.
So this morning, as I watched the Snapper’s car disappear into the distance, I remembered a stormy night over the Christmas period.
It could have been the first of these many mighty storms that have been assaulting us here on the Atlantic edge of Europe. The gusts were shaking the foundations of the house, and the Snapper returned after taking our collie-lab Lady around the garden for her late night peeper (the dog, not... oh you know!)
Excited and pumping energy, she explained how she’d found both wheelie bins blown over, and the full gas cylinder rolled across the lawn. Somehow, with dog on lead in tow, in storm force winds, she’d picked up all the loose papers, cartons, goodness knows what nonsense, returned it all to the bins, which she then secured with the gas cylinder on the leeward side of the house.
I’d been sitting watching TV, picking my toenails.
I told her she was an absolute hero, and wondered how on earth she’d been able to make all those mini-journeys to and fro, picking up the trash, with an excited 3 year-old dog on a lead, eager to explore the storm.
“No problem babe!” she said, and then proceeded to relate how earlier that day, she’d been a hero.
Thankfully her story was the exception that proved the aforementioned rule, as she truly had been heroic.
On her lunch break, she walked up to Eglington Street, where the choir from St. Patrick’s School were singing carols, raising money for the Galway Hospice, if I remember correctly.
To add some festive charm to the occasion, there was a donkey upon which sat a lass playing the part of Mary, and the whole scene filled the Snapper with a warm glow of Christmas wonder. In fact it made her feel quite emotional, the warmth of the Galway moment bringing back happy memories.
Meanwhile, a woman with a hessian shopping bag had moved close to the donkey, who was showing a fondness for hessian, in much the same way that donkeys show a fondness for everything. With part of her bag now in the donkey’s mouth, the woman pulled back, and a comical tug-of-war ensued, much to the delight of the Virgin Mary, who looked down on the tussle, giggling beautifully.
The Snapper loves horses and donkeys and in turn, they adore her. Over the years her experience with horses has helped me to become more relaxed around them. Indeed, when I lived near Killala, Co. Mayo, Kitty the donkey was not only my next door neighbour, but one of my best friends.
The Snapper knew that as long as the woman pulled on her hessian bag, the donkey would pull back all the more emphatically. So she wandered over and started to tickle the donkey in the ear.
There’s a certain art to donkey ear-tickling which I confess, I’ve never mastered. Donkey ears are not entirely void of substances, and sometimes a waxy residue which isn’t very pleasant can end up on one’s fingers. Maybe I just don’t love donkeys enough, because Kitty never used to enjoy an ear-tickle from me, but when the Snapper does it, as she now demonstrated on that Galway street, the donkey goes into a tripped-out state of ecstasy.
The animal’s eyes glaze over ... its jaw slackens ... its mouth drops open ... and before you can say “Madam, you may shop on!”
the donkey’s owner had taken advantage of the Snapper’s help, timed his pull perfectly and released the bag.
As the Virgin Mary clapped and the woman smiled, the Snapper walked into the distance, a female version of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Man With No Name.’
Doubtless, people turned and asked
“Who was that donkey-tickling stranger? She’s a hero!”
She’s my hero.
Gotham City had Batman. Now, thanks to recalling this memory, I can pass the time until she returns playing with the idea of Galway’s new superhero: Donkey-Tickle-Girl!