“When I was your age, I had a hoop!” my father would declare to me every Christmas that I asked for a fancy present, especially a gadget of some sort. A hoop, it was later explained to me, was a bicycle wheel with the spokes taken out. According to my dad’s version of events, the easily-entertained children of 1940s Blarney Street would spend hours rolling these hoops up and down the road, steering them with sticks. As you can imagine, I liked nothing less than hearing him roll out the stock phrase every single December.
It is a fact of life though that we all turn into our parents. And so I have become my father, torturing my own children while simultaneously denying them their Christmas wishes. Just the other night, I was called to the computer by my son Abe and shown a pair of soccer boats he wants to wake up to on December 25th. Not just any soccer boots. These are called miCoaches. Aside from the bad spelling, they come in an especially garish, red, yellow and white design. Oh, and they retail for a mere $189, apparently the going rate to turn your 12 year old boy into Lionel Messi.
“Not a chance,” I declared before he started a sales pitch built around the nano-technology in each boot.
“The chip will tell me how far and how fast I run in each game,” said Abe.
“I don’t need a computer chip to tell me how much you run during matches.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Because I already know.”
“Okay how much did I run against Copiague the other week?”
“Not enough. None of you did. You are all glory hunters!”
This wasn’t enough to put him off the space-age boots (which being American he calls cleats!) so this was when my father’s hoop example came to mind. I walked the kid downstairs to my office, if that’s what you called a space filled with books, two broken hoovers, and several never-to-be-repaired chairs. On a shelf stood a pair of white soccer boots, children’s size 7. They are made of a particularly obdurate plastic and, if you look closely, which I made him do, you can just about see the name Steve Heighway inscribed on the sides.
“I don’t know who Steve Heighway is and these boots are horrible,” he said.
Suitably enraged, I then started to deliver a lecture about Heighway’s mid-seventies magnificence for Liverpool and Ireland. During this, my own childhood came flooding back, especially because the kid’s eyes glazed over just like mine used to do when my father would mention Blarney Street, Baker’s Lane and the fabled hoop. By the time I finished reciting how these hard, white objects were my first-ever soccer boots, the boy was nearly asleep.
So, being the great, modern father that I am, I subsequently went through every pair of soccer boots I ever remembered owning, including long-forgotten brands like Brooks, BlackThorn, and Patrick. I paused for a while to wax especially lyrical about a pair of Hansi Mullers that were, ahem, obtained directly from the old Adidas factory on Vicars’ Road. The mere mention of the three stripes was enough to rouse his interest again.
“You wore Adidas,” he said excitedly. “MiCoaches are Adidas. Can I get them? Can I get them?”
“No, no you can’t.”
“Because, because…” I stuttered, struggling to give a good reason aside from the prohibitive price, “because when I was your age I had a hoop!”
In the end, we all become our fathers.