After Mr O’Leary had cut down the tree we’d been using as our hideout we were desperate to find a replacement. I arrived at Pamela Nolan’s front door the next morning bursting with excitement. “Since I’ve turned six I’m always coming up with the best ideas”, I said in a solemn voice to my friend. “It’s a pity you’re only five you just don’t think as good as me”. My Father worked as a Bread Man for Johnston Mooney & O’Brien and he was always giving us old wooden bread boards to use when we were playing our games. “We’ll make a den using bread boards”, I declared in a dramatic voice. Pamela looked very impressed.
We set to work busily propping up the wooden boards and forming a rectangular space. We decided a flat roof was best and spent the next few hours working in harmony sticking the boards together with black duct tape l’d taken from my Father’s tool box. We discussed how we could borrow some cushions and blankets from our houses to make the den nice and comfy and talked about the games we’d play. By lunchtime it was almost finished, we just needed one more bread board but were so disappointed when we saw there were none left. I looked around the garden desperate to find another board and my eyes rested on my brother’s black & white leather football. Suddenly I jumped up “I know where we can get another board”, I shouted. “Follow me”. Pamela ran after me as I headed out the back gate at top speed running down the lane. “Where are we going?” she asked nervously.
I had remembered that one of the Foran boys had kicked his football with a bit too much gusto and broke the glass in the bottom panel of their front door. My Father had given Mr Foran a bread board to cover the empty pane until the glass was repaired. I strode boldly up to their front door secretly hoping it would be opened by one of the boys. Mrs Foran opened the door her head full of rollers a cigarette in one hand. She looked at us in surprise. “What can I do for you girls?” she asked.
I cleared my throat and sticking out my chest to give myself more confidence I said “My Dad needs the bread board back”. The woman threw her head back and laughed indignantly “What are you talking about child, I’m not giving you back that board its keeping the draft out from my hall”. Pamela had gone green and was slowly walking backwards in retreat. I stood my ground digging me feet further into the brown stickled doormat. “I’m very sorry about your door Mrs Foran but my Dad said I was to get it back from you now. It’s our board after all”. Mrs Foran threw her cigarette on the doorstep and stubbed it with her shoe. Letting out a tirade of curses she grabbed her headscarf off the back of the door wrapping it around her head. “I’m going to have to speak to your Mother this is bloody ridiculous”. She swept past me the front door banging behind. I suddenly lost all my courage and bravado and went weak at the knees. I went to leg it in the opposite direction but felt her hand grab my jumper. “Not so fast girl you’re coming with me”. Pamela had scarpered and so I was left to face the music on my own. My stomach was in a knot and l fought to hold back the tears. ‘I’m in for it now’, l thought.
Needless to say Mrs Foran kept the bread board and I was sent up to my bedroom in disgrace. My Mother told me later that she was “Mortified when Mrs Foran told her I demanded she return the bread board”. ‘Well she mustn’t have been that upset’, I thought as Mrs Foran ended up staying for tea and I could hear their laughter coming up from the kitchen. They even sent for Mrs O’Leary and My Aunty Colette to join them. The next day my Father came home from work with another bread board. “I don’t need it”, I said solemnly “Pamela’s not my friend anymore”. My Father rolled his eyes at my Mother “If she’s like this at six what will she be like when she’s a teenager?”
(c) Audrey McGrath