Every now and then I have very vivid flashbacks to my fun filled childhood. When I see a Paddington Bear teddy, I’m reminded of my very own little blue suitcase. It was very versatile, that little blue case. I used it as a school bag and it often doubled as an overnight bag if I was lucky enough to be allowed spend a night with my Godparents. Yes, that battered blue case could tell a tale or five. It was often packed up and dragged down the road and round the corner when I ran away. Running away involved me heading of down the road and round the corner for what seemed like hours but was really only five minutes. I’d arrive home only to realise that no one had noticed I had left!
The memory that springs to mind at the moment has nothing to do with running away. I’m sure it was a day like any other in the Byrne household. Mum up from the crack of dawn doing Mum stuff. God only knows how it all kicked off, well God and Mammy Byrne. Probably big sis too! Anyway, before I knew which end of me was up, I was packing my trusty blue case and heading for the orphanage. Yes, you read correctly, I was being packed off to the local orphanage. I had been bold. Now when I say I’d been bold I mean really bold (by Mammy Byrne standards at least). This could range from being cheeky to shouting out the upstairs window at unsuspecting neighbours as they went about their daily business. I always had to have the last word which didn’t always go down well with Mammy Byrne. As I’ve said before, I wasn’t happy unless I was causing trouble.
My poor Dad got the job of driving me to the orphanage. I knew exactly where we were heading as we had driven by the gates a few weeks previously when out for a drive. Not only had we driven by it, we’d also gone up the drive. We me a lovely nun minding a gang of kids who invited us in for tea! My sister and I had had a tour of the place; I’ll never forget the beds, all in rows in a large dormitory style room.
I said my goodbyes, Dad pleading with me to apologise to my mum and everything would be alright. Seven year old me refusing to say sorry, choosing to hop into the back of the car instead with my battered blue case stuffed with clean underwear, socks and my teddy bear. Off we set, me sitting stony faced in the back of the car listening to my Dad, the gentlest soul I’ve ever met, telling me that all I needed to do was say sorry, promise to be good and we could go home. Big, brave, seven year old me refusing point blank to agree. Being a Daddy’s girl, I never expected him to get to the orphanage at all. I believed he’d get to the end of the road, buckle and bring me home.
Not so I’m afraid. I was always being told I was getting on Mammy Byrne’s “last nerve”. I had obviously frayed it beyond repair on the day in question. Before I knew where I was, Dad was turning the car into that long familiar driveway and coming to a stop at the big stone steps that searched up to the huge wooden door. Before he could take the key from the ignition I buckled! Told him how sorry I was, how I’d never annoy mum again. The poor man, he must have been up to ninety wondering what he was going to do with me if I stubbornly refused to apologise. I arrived home much to the disgust of my big sister. She had gotten used to the idea of being an only child within five minutes of me leaving the house. My orphanage ordeal is a story I loved to tell as a child along with the tale of how my mum sat on my head with a pillow. But that’s another story.