Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Brother Elvis

Growing up in Ireland we all had jobs to do in the day to stay alive, like finding sticks, turf, or coal to make a fire to stay warm. Or just try to grow food in any piece of land so we had something to eat. Almost everything we take for granted here in this day and age we had to hunt for. I am not sure it is that easy in this life either, " That is another story for another day." Like all children we had to have our fun except that we had to make it, with no toys or TV.

A radio came into the house in later years, controlled by the boss my Mother. When I say controlled by my mother I mean it was turned on only for the news or after the children went to bed, for whatever grown ups listen to.

When we were younger we were really good at turning every hunt, for food, water, or sticks into lots and lots of fun, but then came the teenage years and it wasn't so easy to have fun just doing chores anymore, but then came the Elvis era!

I learned about Elvis after my brother would sneak the radio on which if caught there would be Hell to pay, but it was all worth it as I recall

As a result of the sneaked radio time my brother was hooked for life on Elvis. He used a stick as his guitar,and his audience was his sisters. Of course we had to sneak behind walls, hedges or sheds wherever the boss did not catch us. I am not saying my brother was any good at being Elvis but he really made his audience happy.

From My Brother the Elvis

After we all went our own way to England, other parts of Ireland, and America, one thing never changed "My Brother the Elvis"

I have not seen my brother very ofter in the last 40 years but when I did he greeted me with an Elvis song. Everywhere he goes he is Elvis. Every party he attends he is Elvis. If you call on the phone it is answered "Elvis here". The last time I traveled for 10 hour to meet my brother all I wanted to do was to say "Hello Felix" All he wanted to say was. "Are you lonesome tonight, Do you miss me tonight, Are you sorry we drifted apart." At that moment I wished Elvis was never born!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Old Country Store by the Border

As far back as I can remember during the early years of my family back in Ireland my father worked for a farmer. My memory is not very clear on all of it. Either I was to young then to pay attention or two old now to remember.

One part is very clear in my mind. We had just moved, my father worked for a farmer who gave us a two bedroom house to live in. When I say house, it had a roof 4 walls and yes it did have some windows and a door. My father also got some food and milk for his work which is all we needed "right". My mother and Father had 4 small children at the time.

Ireland which was cut into two parts 26 counties which belong to free Ireland and six that belong to England which they won from us during the war. A war which went on for hundreds of year afterward between the Irish-IRA, and English B-Specials. (Details to get to the part of the story I want to tell.) The house the farmer let us live in was a block away from one of the borders that separates 26 counties from the Six counties. While most borders were heavenly patrolled this one was not. (One more boring part to the story)

The Border
From The store by the border

Everything in the six counties cost a lot more than it cost in the 26 counties. Especially cigarettes which even in poor time were in big demand.

My Mother who was a very smart woman saw an opportunity there. She bought some cigarettes and candy and gave them to my brother and I, who were the oldest of the children. We went out over to the border and when we saw anyone we asked them if they wanted to buy cigarettes or candy at a lot less money than they could on the other side of the border. We sold them all every time.

From The store by the border

As we made a little money, my mother was able to buy a little more every time. Next step, she had made enough money to buy a license to open a groceries store and she turned one of the two bedroom we had into a store. She put cigarette and candy in the little window. Even thought my Mother was legal, the people who came over the border were not. They were called smugglers. They most always came through the field and back allies there. The word got around fast about the store and on weekend people were lined up out side to get in. At night when the store closed it was turned back into a bedroom for the children to sleep in.

Many time the border was bombed by the B-Specials and the cigarettes and candy would fall off the shelf on top of us in bed. This was a great opportunity for my brother and I to get a few candy bars to take to school and it did not hurt when you wanted to make a new friend to have an extra candy bar in you pocket. My brother who already stole the Christmas candy was good at it.

I do not know how long we had the store. but I just remember my mother being pregnant with my youngest sister at about the same time things started to change. The cost of cigarettes and what food you could buy started to cost less in the six counties than in the 26. We call it today "The Circle Of Life". We moved on to another farmer,and finally my father's dream to own his own farm came true.

Picture were taken many years later when my sister and I went back to the old sod for a visit. We took Mum & Dad to visit one of the great chapter in their life. The four walls was still there but no roof widows or door.

From The store by the border

The field that held all those feet running to smuggle those cheaper cigarette still growing green, but the feet are gone.

I give this story and its great memories to my Mother. She saw an opportunity, she help her husband with his dream, also to their dream farm in Goorey and all her beauty.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Boy that stole Christmas!

When I was growing up in Ireland Christmas was a very special time. Weeks before Christmas my mother starting making the plum pudding. I think that was what they called it anyway my mother boiled it in a white flower bag for days over the fire. It was full of fruit. We did not have a Christmas tree or lights but we had holly that grows on the holly tree from the farm.

One of the special times for me at Christmas was when Santa came. He usually brought us some shoes and candy that we normally never had all year. One of the bad, but funny times was my brother had figured out who the real Santa was. After my mother father did their Santa thing my brother used to sneak up to our stockings and eat some of our candy. Even thought my mother and father knew someone was doing it they couldn't confront the thief because that would let the Santa thing out of the bag so they set out to catch the thief in the act.

It just so happened to be that year my brother wanted company in his sneak hole watching the Santa's do their thing. He told me who was really Santa and brought me along to watch from his hiding place. I was sad and shocked.

Just after I'd seen Santa filling our stockings I heard a big slam behind me. It was my mother with the broom. The broom was her favorite weapon and sent us running for our life's. No matter how hard I tried to explain that I was new to my brothers game no one believed me. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the punishments for my brother and I was my mother took all the candy out of our stockings and give it to my other 3 sisters who knew nothing about the crime. That was a big punishment since there was no more Santa for me.

I still do not know who was sneaking on who but I do know I lost a piece of my childhood that Christmas.

Rekindle the Flame

In 1998 the year Scott and I took an assignment in Europe one of my many goals in that assignment was to rekindle the flame on my childhood farm. I had only spent a few short weeks there in the last 20 years

From A visit to the Farm in Goorey

Since then it has fallen down and my family has built a new small house up near the road. Even though I miss the old house, I am glad they had this comfort.
One of the memories that stayed in my heart in that time away from home was seeing my mother and father sitting by the fire or having tea on the little table with its white lace table cloth. 

Since I was home last my father went to heaven and my mother moved out of the little house, to a smaller house closer to Londonderry, to live closer to my sister. My brother bought the land, and my sister fixed the house on the farm up for all of the family to spend a little soul searching time in when they can come home.

Since we are all spread out over England, Ireland, and America, and getting older it gets harder to get together. In 1999 I planned a 2 week trip back to the farm my goals there were:

To sit by the fire like my mother and father did having tea on the little table
Visit my fathers grave
To go to the upper fields
To find the well we used to carry the drinking water from
To just wander all over the little farm
To have a picnic with my mother on the sandy beach
Visit My old School

To make a long story short I did not get the true felling I was after. Carrying 25 years of baggage from my life since I had left as a carefree 18 year made that impossible, but it still was really good. 

I did all the things I wanted to do on the farm. Scott and I took a lovely hike along the MalinHead coast which is the end of Ireland and very close to our family farm. I know there will be another trip back.

We cannot bring the old days back
It fills my heart with pain,
But we can share some memories now
our home is alive again.
I took a walk up on the farm
the well to find,
No More water , stone or stage
it's all moved away with time.
Our Home is there for all to share
A pretty site to see,
Us all around the Table Having tea,

A Trip down Memory Lane

In November 2007 I took a trip home to the old sod and had a reunion with my three sisters my brother, and my mother. It was the first time in 20 year we were all home together with no husbands or wives just the children that grew up together. Even though my father had passed away, we still felt like we had never left home.

There was just too many highlights on this trip to write them all. It would be like writing a book, but I will talk about a few that are very much an Irish custom. Every day many people just dropped in for a cup of tea, a glass of wine or just to sing a song. There was lots of Irish dancing, and singing Irish songs. Our days were full of love, friendship, and laughter. We had many trips to take every day to renew old memories. 

One of my favorite trips was to my grandmothers old house which is over 500 hundred years old and is still standing in memory of the great people who lived in it and loved it. Just to give you an idea of the Irish hospitably a old neighbor where my grandma live heard we were coming to visit the old house and went in and started the old hearth fire in the kitchen and in the little sitting room. It looked like my grandma was still living there even though it was over 50 years since my grandma went to heaven. Believe me we left a lot of tears there.


Then there was days when the sisters that grew up together would try to get away from everybody and go to the pub to have a glass of wine together but,The boys that used to chase us on their bikes as we grew up chased now in their
cars as old men.

I will not bore you with any more of this story as you might already know the Irish are storytellers.