The Soul Train


My son is in primary one, and loving life. Part of his daily reports now includes who fancies whom. Who has a boyfriend, who kissed in the canteen? The same little girl’s name crops up often in his tales and he does not like this to be observed. Another rite of passage, the primary school crush. My chosen one was Ryan. I have grainy VHS footage of myself behaving unlike a 6 year old should when participating in “The farmer wants a wife”. Serenading and well, gyrating are how it can only be described. Poor Ryan shuffles from side to side, not in time to the music, and generally looking uncomfortable. Then it happened. One day an invite to kiss. “Well ok” I told the messenger. An eternal geek, this instantly raised my status in the class. Someone commented to me “I can’t believe you are going to nip Ryan”. I smiled and confirmed this. Inside I was a pinball machine. “Nip, NIP?” What the hell does that entail? I had agreed to “get off” with someone, never NIP. Did this involve nakedness, babies? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what have you done. I imagined the horror on my mother’s face as she registered this new state of affairs at the school gates.  I would be unable to meet her eye as I stood there with a newly birthed baby and a life partner.  “That’s me NIPPED”. I would confirm.  Plus nipping sounded sore. Nipping made my Ryan an amorous lobster in my mind, approaching and snipping at my skirt tails. Confused I ran to the protective cove of my nana’s house and hid behind my baked potato and episode of Home and Away. Ryan never offered his lobster claw out to me again. Understandably.

My son loves this story and does a great lobster impersonation. He always states somewhere along the line that it would never have worked anyway as you were meant for dadda. I smile and confirm this. He states it with such certainty, like identifying a colour or a shape, because that is what we have taught him. As parents whatever we decide to teach our children, becomes fact to them. We are their encyclopaedia, their fountain of knowledge. Being hopeless romantics, we have inadvertently taught our children this outlook. Through us, they will believe in fate, destiny, and soulmates. Have we made the right decision? Is there a right decision? My son also asks about religion constantly. We are not religious and have made the conscious decision to tell him we do not believe there is a man in the sky who is responsible for all. I tell him that we do not agree with the exclusions that come with this way of life. We tell him, marry someone only if you want to. Be with whomever you love, whether it is a woman, a man, or a really good cheese. We teach them about spirituality and our belief in the existence of the soul.

My Granpa Paddy tossed a coin with his best pal to approach my nana. If it had come up heads, would his pal be my Granpa? I do not think so. An East Asian proverb talks of the red string of fate. An invisible string that connects us to others. A predesigned and perfect path, which will allow us a labyrinth of encounters and shared stories. I teach this idea to my own children. A scarlet tapestry whose threads are given to us when we are born but which we knit ourselves. These strings may become tangled or stretched but never broken. When the Greek arrived on my Café floor, gift wrapped in the finest red string I was unsurprised. I have spoken many times about the differences between us. We have very different personalities. On a train journey, I sit with my nose in a book. He roams the carriages like the mayor of Glasgow. Offering stories and gin and tonics to his fellow passengers. I see a lot of my own nature in my son, and as he grows older and more aware, I can see him observe his father’s extroversion. I can feel his discomfort in this action, but I can also see pride and awe in his big brown eyes. My daughter swings from his back, the most adorable koala. She shares his nature, and welcomes the admirers, thrilling the rows of bystanders with her pigeon Greek and bigger brown eyes. Despite this difference, we share the same outlook to life; we can talk to each other across the carriage without opening our mouths.

When we stumble off the train together, I trip over the red thread that connects the four of us. My Granpa sways up ahead on the platform. Clutching his lucky coin and cursing the red string. I wave to my 17-year-old father on the opposite platform. I watch him dust the flour off his hands from the bakery. Breathing in and out quietly. Sooking in fresh air, exhaling confidence, preparing to ask the new start on a date. When he yanks the red thread, my mother spins towards him, her red hair catching the light, and illuminating the sky. My son looks up and shrieks “hey, look that big dude God has put the lights on!” Everyone laughs at his joke as I stop to knit myself some new worry lines on my forehead. Am I doing this right? What will the other passengers think at this blasphemy? Then again, they most likely did not hear. They are busying laying petals for the Greek to walk on, fighting about who gets to meet him first for a pint. As he meets my eye, he knows its home time. My Nana reaches out and stops me fidgeting with the red string around my finger. “Move yer arse and away up the road wee barra,” She whispers into my ear.

Who knows if we are doing it all right? The world today is such a blinding glitter ball of opinions and views. Maybe it does not matter that we are teaching them what is right, but that which we truly believe.


Happy Wednesday xx

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