Nature, Nurture or Coincidence

We’re an old-fashioned family in that we still send each other Christmas cards ~ I mean Big Sis, Big Bro and me.

Big Bro’s card arrived first with the handwriting that doesn’t seem to have changed since he was about seven. His cards are always a bit different and he doesn’t do ‘sentimental.’

This is the one he chose to send me this year:


I thought to myself how typical this was of Big Bro as he’s into bikes and I found myself thinking of all the cycles we went on when we were kids and the way he’d be play-acting around as he rode off ahead of me  …..

A few days later, Big Sis’s parcel arrived and I thought I  had developed double vision when I saw the exact same card spilling out of the padded envelope.

I’ve been looking at the cards on the mantle piece and keep wondering what the chances were that they would both pick the same card ~ albeit they were for different charities.

You’d be surprised where ponderings on such matters can bring one. I started looking up stuff about coincidences, nature, nurture, grown-up children, Santa, siblings … and then just let my mind do its own thing.

What a mish-mash of memories: Dad’s party trick of cycling backwards; my sense of burning anticipation of Big Sis and Big Bro coming home from boarding school for Christmas and us playing cards in front of the blazing fire; the fights over what records we would play; the year of the Big Snow when we lived in the Midlands and all the lakes were frozen over and people riding bikes across them; board games, especially, Snakes and Ladders, and the sound of the dice rattling around in the little plastic cup …

I doubt I’ll ever get to the bottom of it but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are still entwined and have such shared history:

Big Sis and Big Bro in Cahoots : Photo by Frank Tubridy




Mother and Son Time

Sometimes I wonder what mothering is all about when it comes to being the mother of a twenty-one year old son. In the early hours of this morning, it suddenly became a lot more than being the fill-the-fridge-fairy and dog-walker-when-owner-out-of-town.

I was still up when he came in to me, ashen-faced, and told me that he’d just found out that a young man who he had been very close to growing up had died. It was the first time that someone of his own age  – just 14 days between them -who really mattered to him had died. I had known the lad too and he was one of those creative, empathetic kids who stood out as being able to talk to adults like they were real people.

In that moment when we were trying to come to terms with this sadness, I realised that being a mother is about being there to share in the highs and the lows as well as  the everyday. My own mother always made a point of showing interest in our friends and I always loved that she would know who I was talking about when I’d mentioned ‘friends of mine that I’ve not even met,’ as she would term them.

That togetherness of the early hours spilled over into today and we went to catch the sunset with his dogs out at Kilfarrasy Beach, a place that holds many memories for us from long years of going there, especially when it’s all ours.

It was a sunset to savour but most of all it was an evening that I think we’ll both remember always. The passing of his friend is etched into the texture of it. Age has a habit of bringing more and more deaths of same-aged friends but the loss of the first can be very tough indeed. Our hearts go out to the young man’s family. How they could be coping is unimaginable.

This evening on the beach, I did what I seldom do, took a photo of my boy. I needed to gather him into my heart and hold him just that little bit tighter than usual:

At Twenty-One


Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life.


Steps and Stairs

Do you think that grown-up children retain or cast off the fact of their place in the family order?

I got to thinking about this today when I was looking at some old photographs of our family. I’m the youngest of three and  I must say I still tend to see myself as ‘the baby’ in lots of ways.

The Three of Us Photo: Frank Tubridy
The Three of Us
Photo: Frank Tubridy

I’ve no concept of what it would be like to be the eldest or in the middle or indeed one of a large family.

Given that we have just one ‘child,’ I’ve come to learn a fair bit about ‘only’ children.

When I say about feeling like the eternal ‘baby,’ I find that quite reassuring and like the security of knowing that the others are there ‘looking out’ for me. I also think that being the youngest may have been a factor in the closeness of my relationship with my parents as I was the last to fly the nest and was an ‘only’ child for quite a few years while the other two were away at school and college.

I’d love to hear your perspectives on this. 

Crazy Mixed-Up Kid

Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.

(Pablo Neruda  July 12, 1904-September 23, 1973)


I’m in one of those ‘all over the place’ moods and I make no apology for it!

It’s been a good week so far BUT it was all a bit strange because my camera was banjaxed for most of it and I came to realise how much I think Oh, I just have to take a pic of that!  Mercifully, I had it sorted in time to catch this one of the Astilibes in Mount Congreve yesterday:

Mount Congreve Garden, Co, Waterford
Mount Congreve Garden, Co, Waterford

I’m the youngest ‘child’ of the three in our family and Tuesday brought the opportunity to spend the day with ‘big bro’ who has been pretty much everything to me ~ hero; giver of my fringe when I was still in my cot; practice and mixed doubles partner in tennis since I was three and he six; chaperone;  advisor on men ~ beware the intentions of all men from age 14 to 114; grammatical/spelling corrector ~ he’s an English teacher and writer and not so long ago noted that it would be a help if I knew how to spell grammar correctly ~ I was absolutely certain there was an towards the end; the person who has always known how to make to laugh ’til I get a pain in my cheeks; reminder of Mother and Dad ….. as we parted at the South End of the Quay in Waterford I watched him walk away with Mother’s knowing look and Father’s words: It’s a mile from one end of the Quay in Waterford to the other ….. 

'Big Bro' and Me
‘Big Bro’ and Me             Photo: Frank Tubridy

Yesterday, I met a friend and she talked of all the rowing that had occurred between her and her sibs when they were young. I only ever had one row with ‘big bro’ and that was when he (accidently) broke one of my precious records ~ I can’t remember now which one it was ~ but it was the era of Quick Joey Small which was HIS and which was No. I in the Irish Charts in January 1969.

The reason I remember this row so well was because my screaming and roaring were so loud that Father, who was with a customer downstairs,  came thundering up the stairs of the bank house where we were living to find out if the place was on fire or something. By that time, I had got my revenge by cutting  tiny snips in ‘big bro’s’ favourite ties.

I don’t know about you, but I think that one’s place in the family order matters hugely. I don’t think I’ll ever see myself as anything other than the youngest. Nor do I think I’ll ever be completely at home being  a grown-up when my sibs are around.

The Three of Us
The Three of Us           Photo: Frank Tubridy