From Charlotte who had it from all kinds of other places*: a chance to show just how spectacularly privileged I am. With all these opportunities, you’d think I might be the lynch pin of the nation by now, but no. Maybe my father was right, maybe we were brought up too soft.
Bold the true statements. You can explain further if you wish.
1. Father went to college.
2.Father finished college.
3.Mother went to college.
4.Mother finished college.
She gave up her PhD when the safety lab exploded taking all her notes with it..
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
Well, define class, but I suppose we were more or less all the same.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
My father’s great line: “books will be the ruination of this house”. So true. He kept trying to give them away to Oxfam and I kept stealing them from his giving away piles.
9. Were read children’s books by a parent.
The plagues in the Old Testament were popular favourites. When my brother was seven my mother read him all the Narnia books chapter by chapter, always stopping at an exciting point in the hope that he might pick one up himself, but no. My father hates reading aloud and never read us anything as far as I know.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18.
11.Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18.
Swimming (following an unfortunate incident at my cousin Jane’s birthday party: we were taken to her friend’s house with a swimming pool – in Cork, in the 1970s, really, the mind boggles – and all the others could swim but I had to stay paddling in the shallow end with my arm bands, I was not happy), ballet (white tights, white jumpers and black shoes for years), elocution (you think Cork people sound like this naturally?), recorder (not a success) and I think that’s it. Oh no, I forgot Irish dancing.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
I’m not sure that anyone in the media has my unfortunate dress sense but I know what they mean. And yes.
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
Though my parents paid the bill and it was only for emergencies once I started college.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Because my parents worked in the university, my fees were free. Even, if this had not been the case, they would have stumped up for them anyway. I think that, if you can afford it, this is a wonderful thing to give your children. I had a fantastic time at college and it is only now I realise how lucky I was not to have to get a job to make ends meet or to finish with a mountain of debt. I don’t think it made me less mature or less responsible than my contemporaries and it certainly made me happy. Mind you, fees are a lot cheaper in Ireland than in the US – in fact for the past 10 or 15 years it’s been free.
16. Went to a private high school
I remember saying to an English friend ‘there are no private schools in Ireland’. What, she said, your husband, your brother, your father didn’t go to private school? Which left me back pedalling slightly but it really was very unusual when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s. There were a couple of fee paying boarding schools in odd rural locations around the country and some private schools in Dublin but, in Cork, I think there were only two fee paying schools, both schools for boys (one for the old money families and one for the clever nouveau boys).
17. Went to summer camp
I went to the Gaeltacht – does that count?
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Had grinds in Irish (from my hilarious cousin) and physics from one of my mother’s old college classmates who taught in my brother’s school (Cork is like that). He was quite, quite brilliant. At Easter I got a D in my mock Leaving Cert Physics and 2 months later I, very briefly, understood the entire Physics syllabus and got an A. My friend M who is very interested in science (and went on to do a PhD in Chemistry and now does hard things in research laboratories making her a joyful, positive statistic for the kind of people who measure R&D performance in Ireland) was extremely bitter about this undeserved glory. She actually had to work for her A. Our physics teacher was absolutely useless and we all got grinds, except M who, as discussed, actually had to work for her A. I am sure it stood her in better stead in the long run.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Until I was 9 we spent four weeks every summer at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen a heady hour’s drive from our home. It often rained but we didn’t care. Every evening, the children ate early and I had melon to start, chicken and chips and melon for dessert. The kitchen used to do us packed lunches and we would go off to the beach for the day with our wind-break (always an exciting engineering project for my father) and our picnic basket. When I was 9, my mother decided that four weeks of hotel food every year would kill my father and we started going on camping holidays in France.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
I got loads of hand-me-downs from cousins but most of my clothes came from my friend who was a year older than me and an only child (clothes therefore in much better nick than those from my cousins which were often threadbare). My mother also made us a lot of clothes. I don’t remember being bought many clothes (I feel that children’s clothes were much more expensive then than they are now). My father once brought me a beautiful dress from the Corte Ingles (they seem to have something similar still in stock) when I was quite little and I loved it very much, I can still remember what it was like. I really hated my mother’s favourite, the black velvet dress with the lace collar (stop sniggering at the back) and I used to chew the lace collar in the hope that it would come off but it never did.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
Hah, you jest. It was a labour of love to persuade my father to let me learn to drive in his car. He only wanted to let me loose on it when I could fully explain the workings of the combustion engine. That brief period when I could have met his criteria (see question 18 above) was taken up with studying for my leaving cert but eventually my mother wore him down and he did let me learn. We bought our own cars though. My first car was second hand from my aunt and then sold to my sister.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
Yes, most noticeably a very Victorian offering which my father loathes. It is a picture called “The Return of the Victor”. It shows a bullfighter kissing the hand of a coy senorita while her friends look on enviously. I am inexplicably fond of it.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
My father bought my parents’ house before I was born. He had saved up for a yacht and spent the money on our house. He went out and bought it without consulting my mother. I think she was…surprised.
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
Alas, no. I used to spend all my time on the telephone in the hall.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
No. We didn’t get a colour television until I was 13 and we had a measly portable until I left home. We never paid for cable so we only had RTE 1 and 2 (if you have to ask..). My sister once got my father all the way to the multi-channel shop and he said to the man behind the counter ‘is it any good?’ and the man said ‘Nah, there’s never anything on’. We gave up after that. Now, of course, they have millions of channels.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
My father served on an international committee for years and they all became good friends and he and the German delegate had daughters the same age (14) and they decided we could do a language exchange. S was diabetic so her father was a bit concerned about letting her off and entrusted her to my father’s particular charge which, I think, he found unnerving. Just as well, then, that when I came down with jaundice, which she also got, she was safely back in Berlin. After she came to us, I went to her family in Berlin. I don’t remember much about the flight though I was really looking forward to it (when I asked my father what a plane was like, he said, like a bus but with less leg room – accurate though considerably undermining the glamour), there was even a free meal (this was the early 1980s). I was, of course, very excited about going to Berlin – the wall (who would have thought that it was to go so soon), the big city glamour etc. etc. I arrived and two days after my arrival we were all packed in to the family car and driven across East Germany (actually very boring) all the way to a tiny hamlet in Bavaria (Benedictbeuern). I just looked it up and it’s so small that it doesn’t even have a home page. We went walking in the woods. Her handsome older brother did not come. I did not have the opportunity to experience gracious European apartment living in a big, romantic, glamourous city or, at least, not for very long. Still, I did get to fly to Berlin and back.
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
Really, people do that?
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
Apparently, they do.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
We spent half our time in the Cork city museum. Surely that counts. If you pushed buttons the sites of the war of independence lit up and early Christian settlements (different maps).
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
Well, not in actual figures, no but my father used to go around the house turning off lights and radiators when we weren’t using and asking us balefully whether we knew electricity cost money. He was also keen on shutting doors to keep the heat in. He was green before his time.
*The original authors of this exercise are Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.