TODAY, IT’S 27 MAY 1978. I made my First Holy Communion recently. Mammy said if I wear the dress again today, I might get another few bob from the people drinking in the pub, but I don’t care about money. This dress feels so alien to me. It’s not that it’s fussy: I just don’t wear dresses, because I’m a bit of a tomboy. I like climbing trees and messing around in the fields around the back of the house with the neighbourhood boys, like Dave and Ger. While Mammy and Daddy are in the pub, still celebrating my Communion, I’m mooching around the back of the pub car park. There’s a building site there. Now I’m happy. I’m doing plenty of exploring, in spite of the dress. Then I find a trowel and I’m delighted. I start digging into the soil, thinking that Daddy’s going to be happy with this, because we don’t have a trowel. Maybe one day he’ll make something with it.

As I run into the pub to tell him about my discovery, I’m trying to brush some of the dirt from my dress. They seem somewhat oblivious to my find due to the fact that they are all drunk. There’s nothing new about this, so I exit the scene and throw the trowel on the seat of the van through a gap in the window. With nothing else to do, I’m back inside. The hours pass, and I feel so bored. I hate sitting inside the pub, but it’s getting cold outside. Darkness falls, and I’m resigned to sitting with them. The alcohol has piled up on the table. Cigarette smoke is thick in the air, and there are drunken men bellowing out rebel songs. I can’t stand it. They’re getting seriously drunk, and I’m feeling sick to my stomach.

Why the hell did I have to have a Communion? I think. It’s just another excuse for my parents to get hammered. Mammy and Daddy are like two powder kegs, ready to explode at any minute. I hate going to pubs with them, but Mammy orders me to go, so I’ve no choice. At last it’s time to go and we get into the van. I’m in the back. Before my mother settles into the passenger seat, I lean in and quickly move the trowel so she doesn’t sit on it. I close my eyes and pray. It’s a two-mile drive to our house, and I hope we’ll make it without something happening. Here we go. She screams at him to watch where he’s going, because he’s weaving all over the road. I’m on my knees in the back. I take my white clogs off since they’re cutting into the back of my thighs as I crouch in the dark. We’re halfway home. Please God, please God, I think, nearly there.

The screaming and shouting grow more ferocious. Then Daddy lifts the trowel and smashes it across my mother’s skull. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Daddy hit Mammy. Silence. He slams on the brakes, opens the passenger door and, with his outstretched leg, forces her body off the seat and on to the road. There’s more silence for a second, then the side door opens, and I’m yanked out, my clogs slipping off my feet. Mammy grips my arm with her wet hand, sticky with blood. Hysterical, she commands me to knock on someone’s door to call an ambulance. All I can think is that I’m so embarrassed. I’m walking on a main road, barefoot, in a bloodied Communion dress. My parents’ drunkenness is now public. I get to a house with a wishing well in the garden. How ironic. I run up the front path and knock on the door. It could be the early hours of the morning, I don’t know.

When the door is answered, I apologise and ask if they can call an ambulance. My mother, of course, is falling apart, screaming at the top of her voice and being really dramatic, her arms swaying about in the air. I don’t even feel concerned because it’s happened so many times before. She could be dying, for all I know. Every weekend it’s the same story: drink, screaming, blood. I feel numbed by it all. I’m mad at myself, really, because I was the one who put that trowel in the van. I feel totally exhausted. We arrive at the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department, and Mammy is wheeled away on a trolley in a bloodied state. We’ve been in this situation countless times, where Mammy has lashed out at Daddy in a drunken rage, but Daddy has never fought back until now. And while I can handle washing splattered blood from the sitting-room walls on a Monday morning after one of their binges, I get so embarrassed when other people see it.

Daddy and I sit on the hard plastic seats and wait. He’s sobering up now, but he’s in a kind of stupor. When I ask if he’s okay, he just shrugs his shoulders and says nothing. After what seems like an age, my mother, smelling like a brewery, is escorted back to us, the wound on her head stitched together. The nurse tells me Mammy’s going to be fine. ‘You look after her,’ the nurse says as we leave the hospital. As hardened as I am by this carry-on, I do know it’s not the way it should be. It’s been going on for so long that it feels normal, in a strange way, but what scares me now is that the fights seem to be getting more ferocious.


— extract from ‘I Am Someone’ by Aisling Creegan, reproduced with the permission of Gill Books