A new school year means new beginnings and it’s no different here at beijingkids. Over the summer, we said goodbye to former Managing Editor Kara Chin and Deputy Managing Editor Ellis Friedman (whom many of you also knew as the old School Editor). As we kick off the 2013-2014 academic year with a new team, we figure we should properly introduce ourselves. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be spotlighting a different beijingkids staff member each week.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A few years ago I was at a crossroads in my career, wondering what to do next. My mother rang me to offer me back-to-the-future advice from my inner child. She had saved an old copybook of mine which contained the answer to that very question, written by my 8-year-old self. I heaved a sigh of relief, anticipating pure wisdom and guidance. Unfortunately, fairy princess is not a real job, and I’ve had to settle for School Editor.
Do you have any siblings? If so, tell us their name(s) and a fun fact about them.
In Catholic Ireland in the 1970s, families attempted to replace headcount lost during the potato famine. Couples competed fiercely to see who could top the leader board in the offspring stakes. My parents churned out six kids, which was a respectable showing. Their real coup was having three boys and three girls in matched pairs. It’s almost like they planned it, but that definitely wasn’t kosher in Ireland back in the day. My parents being quasi-traditionalist, we were named according to the Irish naming convention. (In chronological order, first paternal grandparents’ names, then maternal grandparents’ names, finally parents names.
So deep breath, here comes the list of siblings:
- Molly and Willy, the eldest girl and boy. Like all oldest siblings they are, depressingly, always right and utterly competent. If zombies attack, you want to be in their bunker. Between them they know everything.
- Paddy and Shivvy, the middle boy and girl. By far the coolest teenagers. Boys from two villages away would endlessly cycle past our house hoping to catch a glimpse of my sister. My brother formed a rock band and inspired a generation of farmer’s sons to dress like hobos.
- Johnny, the youngest boy. My parents kept going until they got one right. We nicknamed him “Golden Boy,” and he fully deserves his status as favorite child and demi-god.
Who was your childhood hero?
Growing up in a house full to the rafters, just like Greta Garbo, I vanted to be alone. So I idolized orphans: Annie, Oliver, The Little Princess. I envied their freedom and agency. They had their independence – no one combing their hair or curtailing their adventures. I once asked my mother when my birth parents would arrive, and she told me she hadn’t heard back from them yet.
What was your favorite childhood food? Has it changed as an adult?
When I was a kid, if I was having a rough day my mother would make me a bowl of creamy yummy custard. I still believe almost all sweet things can be further improved with a blob of yellow stuff or a spoonful of crème anglaise if you’re a proper grown up. Coincidentally, I’m attending a pot-luck dinner this evening where each guest will bring their favorite food from childhood. I’ll be bringing an apple crumble and a bowl of Bird’s custard.
List up to three of your favorite childhood books:
- Sherlock Holmes – he was constantly rewarded for being a know-it-all.
- Enid Blyton – worth it for the descriptions of Aunt Fanny’s endless high teas alone. They always had lashings of custard to boot.
- The Chronicles of Narnia. I held high hopes for wardrobes for many years.
Tell us an embarrassing or little-known childhood anecdote about yourself.
I began a novel when I was kid which was total dirge. It was set in the 19th Century, and heavy on food descriptions (ashcakes and brambly jelly) and time travel. See if you can work out my influences (Hint; look back at my three favorite books). I abandoned my opus when my older siblings got hold of it and declaimed sections aloud to each other.
Tell us about your parents’ quirks and how they’ve shaped you.
My mother loves a party, every mealtime is an occasion. She’s a generous hostess and really knows how to make people feel special and welcome. Although she’s a good girl she has a jet-black sense of humor. She’s a natural raconteur and I wish I could do impersonations half as well as she does. She really taught us joie de vivre.
Unfortunately, my father passed away when I was 17. He was his own man and larger than life. An entrepreneur, and an enthusiastic sportsman, he loved to hunt, clay pigeon shoot, and train his gun dogs. He held every coaching, mentoring and administrative position at our local football club at one time or another. He golfed obsessively. He taught us courage, perseverance and how to be ourselves.
How many kids do you want?
My other siblings have provided my mother with 11 grandchildren to date and I am off the hook so far.
Aisling O’Brien is an ex-pat Irishwoman, brought up and educated in Cork, who has made Beijing her home for the past two years. A tech enthusiast, avid traveler and foodie, she joined beijingkids in July 2013 as the School Editor.
Photo courtesy of Aisling O’Brien