I work as a part time childminder for two different families. On Mondays and Tuesdays I have my gorgeous girlies - aged 6, 5 and 3; Wednesday and Friday afternoons I have my best buddies-aged 12, 10 and 6. They are all great kids and all attend Gaelscoil Bhriain Boroimhe in Applewood, Swords. My best buddies are members of a relocated South African family - all of my buds were born in Ireland, and they speak both English and Irish (and fair play to their mother for mastering Irish to be able to help them with homework – she has better Irish than 99% of our population) with a delightful Afrikaans’s accent. They family blonde, sallow-skinned and beautiful.
On Thursday night last I was sitting at home idly scrolling through Facebook when I spotted a picture of a dog that looked remarkably like Charlie, new pet (with the smelliest farts in Ireland), of my best buddies. This dog had been found near Airside in Swords, Dublin, and looked very plaintive in the photo.. He had been taken in by a family and they'd posted his image on a local ‘Things For Sale, Swap or Free’ page in the hope someone in the area would recognise him. I mentioned it to the Jemser and he said
‘Sure ring your best buddies’ mother and let them know.’
But it was late and I didn’t want to disturb them so I left it. The whole thing went completely out of my head on Friday morning – until I got a text from me buddies’ Mam asking me something, and mentioning that she’d left the side gate open as Charlie had done a runner. The family only got Charlie five weeks ago - from another nice home; but he is unused to the area and apt to bolt to explore if one leaves the front door open for even a second. The kids aren’t used to this yet and so forget to be careful. Plus they’re kids. He had gotten out on the odd occasion before Thursday but they’d always managed to catch him. But he went AWOL Thursday evening - the children were heart broken and very worried. Losing a pet is hard enough on adults, but there is a very special bond between children and their pets, I suppose because children’s lives are - for the most part, carefree; so any little anxiety hits them harder. The children absolutely adore Charlie and have showered him with affection since he came into their lives, they play with him constantly when at home, and he is mad about them all. The parents are incredibly loving busy people but hadn’t taken Charlie to the vet yet for chipping, nor had they gotten around to buying a dog tag. That’s first thing on their list this morning!
‘OMG!’ texted me to her,‘saw him on FB!At least I think it was him. I’ll get kids to confirm and if it’s him we’ll collect him.’
She couldn’t access FB in work to check if it was Charlie so I popped onto the FB page and posted that I thought I knew the owners and would be in touch later. I was right excited going up to me best buddies’ house. I had a little Christmas present for each of them and planned to take them out to eat as a special Christmas treat. I love treating kids, love their faces when something different happens to them. Oh! to be a child again – to still have that sense of wonderment and joie de vivre. Mind you, I do try me best to be tuned into it. I had the laptop open onto that lovely picture of Charlie on FB, ready and waiting hard for the scholars coming in.
The ten year old was first through the door.
‘Hi Ev-eh-lin, Charlie ran away yesterday – is he back?’ Love that child’s accent.
‘No….But’, I raised my right hand, palm out towards him, palm outwards,‘look at this. Is that Charlie?’
‘Yes. That’s my dog.’
‘Well then, he’s found. He’s safe in a nice family’s house.’
His face went through every emotion in ten seconds flat and ended in sheer unadulterated joy as he fist pumped, jumped up and down , shouting
’ My dog. She found my dog. The other two landed in through door.
’What? What?What?’ That lovely blossoming twelve year old, her face a little anxious.
‘Charlie, Ev-eh-lin found Charlie. Look.’
Her face lit up like the twinkliest Christmas tree ever.
‘What? What?’’ She was confused momentarily.
‘Look. Look at his picture.' I put my arm around her, drew her to the laptop. 'It’s him, he was found – I didn’t find him, I just spotted it on Facebook. I have contacted the lady who found him and I’m waiting on a text or phone call to tell us where Charlie is.’
More jumping and fist-pumping and -
‘Ev-eh-Lin you are the best childminder ever’.
This despite my protestations that I hadn’t actually done anything – just luckily spotted their dog and joined the dots. The six year old decided I was magic. In my Story Queen persona I am magic – and he likes that idea.
‘And I’m taken yiz to Burger King as a special Christmas treat. And you’re even allowed dessert after dinner.’
The joyous whoops continued. Then I gave them their pressies – books of course, John Green and Chris O’Dowd for the twelve year old, David Walliams for the ten year old ,and Emer Martin and co-writers for the six year old - along with a magic set - the younger they are the less they regard books or clothes as ‘proper’ presents. One of my gorgeous girlies went into meltdown earlier in the week because I had gifted her a fabulous dressing up dress which looked stunning on her. Deep blue crushed nylon velveteen with a white fur trim and a long fur trimmed cloak, tiara and wand included!
‘Y’didn’t even get us a toy’ she huffed initially, throwing guna on floor. Her mother was mortified. The child’s a child. It happens.
Back to me best buddies. As they opened their pressies and thanked me I kept an eye on FB – lots of comments and messages flying to and fro about our Charlie. The kids were highly entertained as I read them out. After the excitement had calmed down somewhat and they each had a little play on the X Box we set out for BurgerKing. I have a Christmas CD in the car and we sang-along as we drove. I felt all fuzzy and warm inside – like a little girl on Christmas morning when she knows, just knows, everything is going to be perfect. No one will fight, no one will shout in anger, everybody in her family will be happy all day long. No-one will get drunk and ruin everything. There will be love.
We got to the fast food joint and the kids picked what they wanted. They messed with paper crowns and a little Christmas decoration as we waited for the food. They talked. I listened. We laughed at silly things. It was fun. As we ate our grub I noticed through the window a huge murmuration of starlings roiling through the sky as the hard bright winter’s evening drew to a close. I pointed them out to the children and we chatted about it. Then ‘what to my wondering eye should appear’ - behind the starlings and very, very high up, but something that looked so like Santa’s sleigh it was incredible. Of course, it was a plane - and its angle and whatever way the setting sun caught it gave it that mysterious pinkish silhouette. We were all gob-smacked. A magical ten seconds.
‘It can’t be him. It’s too soon. I only sent my letter today.’ Six year old buddy looked a bit worried.
‘You’re right. It’s a plane – but doesn’t it look lovely with all the starlings flying about.
‘Yes. But Ev-eh-lin. It’s not Santa.’
‘No. You’re right.’
We went home then and he showed me some of his magic tricks. Watch yer back Derren Brown. The lady who was caring for Charlie phoned just before I left me buddies' house and they’ll all be reunited this morning. I’ll batter their Da if he doesn’t send me a picture of them with their beloved animal. I won’t batter their Ma, because it’s always the Das’s forgettorys that causes these things,
I had a brilliant day. Happy Christmas yiz all.