Ruby comes into my shop every evening, usually about 4pm. It’s a time of the day I love. My heart jumps to see my darling daughter walking in the door after her day at school. This is due to not having seen her since early morning plus it means that going home time isn’t too far away. Thursday evening wasn’t any different; in she struggled with her gear and school bags, dropped them in the corner and asked me for money for food. It’s a routine we’ve developed in the short time that the two of us have spent on our own in Dingle. She goes off to get a sandwich and for me she gets a bottle of water. Just a simple little thing but a father daughter thing that will stay with me for life. No questions asked just done every day at about 4pm. After she comes back she takes my seat to check her Facebook page and download some music. It’s a time I take to wander out for some fresh air before anyone comes in. Not many people of my age group got to spend this sort of time with their Dads so as a parent I value it very much. Shortly after 5pm we head home and those forty minutes or so is another precious part of our day that I love.
In the mornings neither of us feels like talking much on the journey out to Dingle. It’s just an early morning thing and the peace of the car helps me prepare for the day ahead. Now that Ruby sorted our late leaving the house problem I’m not in such a mad rush to get her to school on time. No more tearing down the Connor Pass at 8.55AM hoping to get her there before the bell goes or stupid overtaking on the Castlegregory road to try save a few minutes. No it’s so peaceful these last ten days that Lyric FM should be playing as we drive. But it isn’t, its Spin SouthWest! By the evening we’re usually more chatty, tired after our days but in the mood for talking nonetheless. Sure the radio is on, Radio 1 at my insistence, but Ruby will talk about school, ask me about things that I may or may not know the answer to or just chit-chat about this, that and the other. Thursday evening was no different and when our conversation went into a lull I began to think about Friday evening. All the last week the talk has been of Friday evening. Yes the night of Ruby’s first disco as a teenager, her first proper disco. The excitement had been building, where she was going beforehand to get ready, who was going, what she was going to wear, where she was staying the night. She had it all arranged, she didn’t need her Dad much, in fact I knew feck-all. All the youth clubs on the peninsula were going, everyone aged 13 to 15 or so was going to be there. Every spotty teenage boy...it wasn’t so much that I wanted to protect my darling daughter from those horny teenagers cos I can’t plus it’s all part of growing up. No it was the idea that I’m no longer the main man in her life or at least my days as such are numbered. Someone else will get to hold her close, occupy her mind, tell her things from a male perspective and I’ll be relegated to the “just the Dad” position . It’s the beginning of that part of her life and of course I know I can’t always be involved and that’s just something I’ll have to get over. To be honest I think it’s great that she’s becoming this independent wonderful person but sometimes I miss that curly headed baby whose eyes lit up every time she saw me.
Another thing that came to mind was my first disco....it was the same time of year and I was about the same age as Ruby is now. My friend Ken and I cycled into Cobh to the disco at Mount Crozier tennis club. If I remember correctly it was on from 8pm to midnight and I was delighted that I was allowed go. The surprise of hearing the music blasting from the speakers that I’d only ever heard on the radio at home really blew me away. That and the girls. The girls from school and the other schools in town too all out dressed up and dancing. As this was my first time I didn’t know what to do but if I remember correctly it wasn’t long before I was showing the dance floor what I had. Then came the slow set. Now that was something I definitely knew nothing about, still don’t today! Ken went off dancing with a girl I didn’t know and after the first dance came back and said I should ask her friend out. I looked over to see who her friend was and it was only one of the best looking girls in our class. All curly long blonde hair, tall and beautiful compared to my little thirteen year old self. Though she was from town I’d even known of her for a year or so before we went to secondary school together, her beauty went before her! Not knowing any better I asked her to dance and she said yes. It had taken me so long to ask her we only had one song before the set was over. The song was that John Denver one which had been the theme song of a popular TV series at the time, can’t remember it now but it went “deep inside the valley ...” Strange that I can’t remember it now as I remember singing all the words into the poor girls ear that night! Oh cringe. After the disco the girls got a lift home from one of the Dads, Ken and I got on our bikes and cycled home. The next morning I woke up a changed man, I’d danced with a girl and not just any girl either. My shyness convinced me that she’d only danced with me cos Ken was dancing with her friend and as a result I was scared stiff to talk with her when school began again after Halloween. In fact I can’t remember ever talking to her again. Did Ruby have the same experience Friday night? Did some worthy boy have the same experience as me? Do they still have slow sets?
As an epilogue to my disco tale I have this to tell. A few years back I spent a weekend in Dublin with some friends from school. As it turned out my friend’s wife was working with my slow dancing partner from all those years back and she mentioned to her on the Monday that they’d spent the weekend with me. It was reported back that she’d always really liked me at school and wondered why I’d never asked her out after that night or at least would have liked to have gone out with me if asked.
Damn you teenage shyness!