I’m not very good at gifts. I actually get pretty stressed about this whenever it comes to birthdays or Christmas because I hate buying gifts just for the sake of having something to give when I’m really not certain that it’s something the other person really wants. However, sometimes inspiration or serendipity strikes and I find something that just screams “gift me” to a particular person. I love giving those gifts. I just wish inspiration would strike more often.
In the case of my husband, we are often quite prosaic, as I believe I’ve already mentioned in my write up about my last Christmas gift to him. The WWE tickets were a true exception to the usual because they were entirely unexpected. So as his birthday approached this month I was once again struggling to think of something that he would enjoy without going down the route of buying something he picked out himself. Once again, serendipity struck, this time in the guise of discount tickets through work to a Leinster v Munster rugby match at the Aviva Stadium in the Pro14 Tournament. Sadly these weren’t a surprise as I did have to check with him ahead of time in regards to schedules, but he seemed truly excited about the chance to attend another live rugby match so I gladly purchased a pair of tickets for him.
That did leave me at a loose end on a Saturday with Hawkeye while I sent The Mister off on his way to enjoy some quality manly time. I decided, on a whim, to venture up to one of the largest bookstores in Dublin that has quite a sizable second-hand section. Heck, it’s an entire floor. I was looking for a couple of particular books for Hawkeye and figured it would make for a fun trip. We got to ride the bus and then go for a walk and eventually found ourselves in Chapters on Parnell Street.
Chapters is…. well… Chapters is special. It’s huge and its used book department is the kind that you can get so lost in that your family might have to send a search party inside that won’t find you until well into next week. I don’t go there very often but when I do I never leave empty handed. I was, however, a bit disappointed in their selection of second-hand books for Hawkeye’s age. It was relatively small compared to the vast numbers of books they have for slightly older kids and up. Their new children’s book section was much better stocked, but I was purposefully trying to stay away.
This is how Hawkeye ended up on the floor of the bookshop, “reading” book after book while I made my way through every volume on the little cart to see what sort of gems I might uncover. I knew I needed to find a way to distract the toddler from pulling everything off the shelves so I asked him if he wanted to look at a book and handed him the closest one to hand. He sat down and proceeded to “read” the book by flipping through each and every page at a rapid pace, pronouncing himself finished when he got to the back cover. Every time this happened I would just hand him the next book from the cart that came to hand while I kept browsing.
As always, I did not leave empty handed, though once again I failed to come up with what I was looking for. However, it was a trial to get out of the shop by the end as eventually Hawkeye lost patience and was becoming a bit difficult to manage given the impossible-to-ignore levels of distraction offered up to him wherever he looked, no matter how hard I tried to get him to keep his hands to himself. The staff, however, were quite understanding, and he was bribed to head up to the tills with our purchases by the promise of some stickers.
He was also getting hungry, which was contributing to his crankiness, but I was not in a part of town where I knew the best place for a child-friendly eating experience. Instead, I wandered into the first half-way decent looking pub, which ended up being the Parnell Heritage Pub & Grill. Ironically, without any sort of planning, we ended up at a pub which was showing the live rugby match that had begun shortly before we left the bookstore. I had heard a text coming in from my husband and when we were seated, with Hawkeye excitedly pointing to the rugby on the big screen, I finally had a chance to check my phone. It was a photo from when they first got to their seats at the stadium.
Not to be outdone, I sent him a photograph of our own “seats” for the match, together with a photo of what I decided to title as his son’s “first pint”. The pub where we ended up turned out to be definitely not a rugby pub. They may have had the match on the big screen, but they had the sound off and were playing music instead. The tables weren’t filled to capacity. Hardly anyone was paying much attention to the match, and absolutely nobody was cheering any of the touchdowns.
It was also obvious that this wasn’t a place that really caters for kids often, because that’s the first time I’ve ever asked for water for our toddler and had an entirely full pint glass of water, with ice, plonked in front of him by a waiter. But we did just fine anyway, and the lack of rugby enthusiasm meant we got the whole comfortable booth to ourselves with an unobstructed view and a quiet lunch. We left shortly before the match ended, though by that point the results were looking rather optimistic for the boys in blue. However, it was once again time to get Hawkeye on the move.
We took a long walk to the bus stop. Our journey was interrupted once by an unexpected stop at another bookstore because Hawkeye insisted on going inside. Honestly, I was rather anxious to get home, but there is no way in hell that I will say no to my son asking to go into a bookstore if I can help it, so we wandered inside briefly. We went all the way through the shop, and peeked into the kids section, but I managed to convince him to come back up to the front by saying that I had to ask the lady a question. I wanted to repeat my inquiries about the books I was searching for, but Hawkeye beat me to it by running up to the counter, standing on his tip toes and very clearly saying to the cashhier “can I have a book please?!”
It was a pretty awesome way to end our adventure. I managed to get him out of the shop and around the corner, where we were just in time to catch our bus home. And once we got off, we walked toward home, past all the streaming match spectators who were leaving the Aviva and walking back in the opposite direction. At the end of the street we were met by a very familiar face who had something ever more exciting for Hawkeye:
Daddy had brought back a souvenir for Hawkeye, who proudly walked all the way home bearing the Leinster Rugby flag aloft. He doesn’t know it yet but he’s going to grow up a Leinster supporter! 🏈