I recently met a friend for breakfast downtown. We ate some warm scrambled eggs served with a tooth-chattering cold cherry tomato on the side, accompanied by two pale slices of toasted sourdough bread and a cup of bitter coffee.
Although we kept in touch because of Covid, we hadn’t seen each other for about three years. He looked good, slim, focused, seemed younger and happier than at our last meeting. He had been taking care of himself, he told me, traveling less, dividing his time between city and country.
The bill came for the cold plate of grayish eggs. Scanning the dazzling total, we promptly remortgaged, sold our firstborns and auctioned off a portion of our essential organs for the cash, and then, limping from financial shock, decided to take a ride to help our recovery.
There was a freedom available to my generation, especially in our 20s, to live and grow up in the capital. We were free to make work and friends and mistakes and spaghetti bolognese on wet floors on sunlit streets
We walked around St Stephen’s Green, watching for ducks and tourists, each species determined to make the most of the sun and dappled shade. Touring the Georgian squares of the South Side, we talk about work, money, parents, offspring, and also the progeny of our mutual friends, many of whom seem to have been given a level of financial and emotional protection that wasn’t necessarily available. for us. (We discovered a long time ago that we are the children of parents who struggled with repetitive tasks, like marriage and making a living.)
My friend ventured that, in general, our children are a bunch of bourgeois. She didn’t know if she agreed with him on that; It seemed like an off-key assessment. I certainly wouldn’t want to start all over again now in Dublin. I couldn’t imagine trying to make a creative living in this city of expensive eggs and cosmetic clinics, big data, and even higher rents. There was a freedom available to my generation, especially in our 20s, to live and grow up in the capital. We were free to make work and friendships and mistakes and spaghetti bolognese on wet floors in sunlit streets and squares like the ones we were walking now, shadowed as the morning lengthened. There was also a privacy, back then, when one could only be reached by a public phone at the bottom of a rickety staircase, or maybe I’m idealizing; maybe my memory is fraying. However, the cohort I was with in the 1980s had independence, which is, in my opinion, a greater privilege than any gift an anxious parent can bestow now.
Cutting through an alley in an attempt to access the main thoroughfare, my friend and I backtracked to look at a discreetly hidden terrace of mews houses, covetable pieds-a-terre which, at today’s property prices, presumably house some pretty well . – Thoroughbred shod.
Splashing around in the deflated kiddie pool of parenthood, I begin to remember a different me, a young woman walking down Baggot Street who wouldn’t have recognized a mouthguard if it bit her back.
I fantasize about moving back downtown, now that my kids are older and the years of driving around suburban soccer fields and queuing at malls with book lists and uniforms are over and my calendar is clear of meetings. of parents and teachers. and physical education days. Splashing around in the deflated kiddie pool of parenthood, I begin to remember a different me, a young woman walking down Baggot Street who wouldn’t have recognized a mouthguard if it bit her back.
How much do you think it would set me back in a place like this? I asked, picturing myself arranging my organic kumquats on those awfully thin window sills. My friend didn’t bother to dignify the question with an answer.
I don’t think that many of our children are bourgeois, but I do think that many of them have been hampered by their parents’ expectations. Whether those notions stem from a desire for our progeny to conform to the new societal standard (perfect teeth, perfect education, perfect careers, perfect marriages outfitted with complicated coffee machines) or simply a desire to provide them with a safer life than our own . own, the result is, I think, more or less the same.
I think, I told my partner as we walked past the cute dollhouses I can never afford, that as parents of young adults, we have to let go of all our expectations, everything. We have to relinquish control, learn to walk away. The only gift worth giving is probably benign neglect.
We parted at the end of Grafton Street and agreed to meet again in the park in the fall. Given the price of our scrambled eggs and factoring in inflation, we’ll probably have to carry a sandwich and a hip flask in our pocket.