Saturday, November 27, 2010

What if there isn't "Anymore"

One day a woman's husband died, and on that clear, cold morning, in the warmth of their bedroom, the wife was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't "anymore". No more hugs, no more special moments to celebrate together, no more phone calls just to chat, no more "just one minute." Sometimes, what we care about the most gets all used up and goes away, never to return before we can say good-bye.
I was thinking...I could die today, tomorrow or next week, and I wondered if I had any wounds needing to be healed, friendships that needed rekindling or a few words needing to be said.
With my Mothers 92nd  birthday this year and all her children in their sixties, yes I said sixties not sexy.  A little voice in my head kept saying.  What if there isn't “Anymore”
It has been three years since my last visit to my homeland!   read    “A Trip Down Memory lane”   If you enjoyed that you could also read    “Margaret’s Trip Home”   
With this little voice in my head still talking to me, I called my sister Angela and within minutes a trip was in the making. Since I am a deaf person I need a guardian angel on trips like this, and Angela is the best guardian angel a sister could ask for… Thank you Angela.

With my mother living In Ireland, a sister in Ireland, a sister in England, a brother in England, and a sister  living in the USA we had lots of plans to make. In a short time we had a plan in place. This trip would be about spending time with my mother, sisters, and brother.  Thanks to our spouses who stayed home to help us make what might be the last Friel reunion come true.
My sister Angela and I are ready to go to the airport.
Nine hours later we were welcomed at my sister home in England!
   Spending two day in England at my sister home we enjoyed being spoiled to death while we were resting up before travelling on to Ireland to see  my mother.
So the party begins for two short weeks!  Around  the table we enjoyed singing, dancing, and an old Irish favorite story telling. We all took our turns taking care of my mother a treat for us all.
Happy 92nd birthday mother!
Even thought it rained every day we were there, that did not stop my sister Angela and I from sneaking out of the house every morning, to walk in the rain.  For two hours we would enjoy the beautiful landscape of Goorey and breath in that sea air just outside our front door.

One afternoon in spite of the wind  and rain “while our mother was taking a nap” we took a trip down memory lane to the old farm yard where we all worked and played so many years ago. Leading the way was my brother.
He was carrying a broken umbrella. While umbrellas in Ireland are as common as their potatoes, a broken one made no sense to me. But then it was my brother carrying it?
   We enjoyed finding the old potato digger that we all worked behind gathering potatoes. “Those were the days”
My sister Angela said since she was the one that gathered the most potatoes in those days, she was the most eligible one to have her picture take on the digger.  Ok.. something's in life never change, I am not going to argue with my guardian Angel since I still have to get back to the USA.

  After a few great  hours exploring the old farm yard and sharing memories together, my brother finally helped me understand the use of the broken umbrella!
  I have seen many changes in Ireland over the years. One that stands out and hurts the most for me is all the big mansions  and new homes being built there. My greatest memories in life are still in the old straw roof homes of Ireland. Lucky for me I still found many of my old favorites still standing tall.
The Thatch roof homes of Ireland!

As I stand by the little sign that says Friel’s cottage!  that little voice in my head was saying to me.
What if there isn't “Anymore”
As I got in the car to start that long journey back to my Family in the USA. My thoughts went  back in time  to around 24 years ago.
It was one of my first visit back home after I had emigrated to the USA. I was walking down the lane to catch the bus to return to the USA.   “No cars in those days”
With  tears in my eyes and on my cheeks, I looked back up the lane to see my father just standing there looking. Was that little voice in his head saying what if there isn't “Anymore” or was it his way of saying I love you. I did not look long. I took this picture, a memory that will stay with me forever and walked on.
The last time I saw my father in body!
This trip 2010, I took the same picture, without even knowing, it was the same picture. My Father is not there in body but I could still see him standing there saying I love you in his own way!
My sister Frances closes the gate for the last time on this great trip! “But not it’s Memories”
Just in case I am gone tomorrow!
I Love Ya!!
Live today because tomorrow is not promised.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

" Reading between the lines "

Almost half a century ago living in a very remote part of Ireland there was not much in the way of education or even schools to go to. Mothers and Fathers never felt very comfortable talking to their children about the facts of life, or anything in the grown up world. There were no TVs or any real way to learn from the outside world. There were not even very many people to learn from. Whatever we learned like everything else, we learned the hard way.

Now, I am not complaining about how I had to learn. I would never want it to have been any other way. "Reading between the lines" became my only way of learning. I have gotten very good at it. This has helped me in the Corporate world even today where they spend their time only telling you the parts of the story that they want you to hear.

Then I was 11 years old and did not know anything about the facts of life. But what I did know was that: I was told there was a Santa, but my brother almost got me killed with the broom finding out who the real Santa was. I was having my doubts about the "truths" of life.

My family were as Irish Catholic as you can get. My mother who should have been a preacher, or a nun talked God to me all the time. Trying to "read between the lines" you quickly start to think; Was God just another Santa or someone who wanted me to have no fun?

We had an old car that never seemed to run, except a few times in the year miraculously it would be in the driveway ready to go. Then we would be told we were going to visit my grandmother. This was heaven to me, but there was always that fear that I would not get to go!

You see one of the children would always have to stay home to herd the cattle. Lucky for me my brother was older and he was into Elvis. He saw staying home as a great opportunity to practices being Elvis. Even if it was only to the cows, while my Mother the boss was gone.

Off we would go on the 50 mile Journey to my Grandmother and Grandfathers'.

When we got to grandmothers I found out the reason for the trip. It was to bring me to stay with my grandmother. My grandmother was lonely since my grandfather was completely deaf. She needed me to talk to, which I was more than happy to do.

After my family went home, grandmother and I sat down to one of our many long talks together.
I found out from my grandmother in one of our talks that, one of her neighbors' grandsons (Stevie) was staying with them for the same reason I was staying with my grandmother.

Like all children do at that age Stevie and I got to know each other fast. We were the only children for miles and we grew very close, spending all of our time talking and dreaming together.

At 14 Stevie was older than me and he did not have to go to school. My grandmother had enrolled me at an old school a ways from her house. where I walked everyday. "Life was good." I was going to school and when I came home I was the only child, and I had Stevie as a friend. In my mind at the time it was all anyone would want in life. however nothing stays the same, especially at that age (even if you want it to).

One day coming home from school I noticed something red in my underwear and I got so scared. After a day it only got worse and I thought I must have eaten a piece of glass or something. Well after a few days it got better and I was also felling a lot better but I still did not want my grandmother to know.

What children do not always know at that age is, grown ups know everything. My Grandmother sat me down beside her and said we have to talk.

She said in a very different voice than I was used to her having:

"You are young lady now"
"You will get this every month"
"Do not wear white at that time in the month."
"Keep all the boys an arm length from you."

And that was it!

I went outside and sat under a tree and tried to "read between the lines." What I came up with was not very pretty. I remember thinking: "Well now there is no Santa, and there might not be a god, but this I will have every month forever." (at the age of 13 you live forever). But even all
that did not prepare me for a week later when I saw a car pull up in granny's lane.

Granny's Lane

It was my mother and father coming to bring me home. "Reading between the lines" at a later date I determined that my grandmother had sent a letter to my mother giving her the news.

Since I was "a young lady now" and my only friend was a boy, and not a catholic boy at that I needed to be under the watchful eye of my mother the boss.I was back at home never to return. but for a visit to my Grandmother the woman I so dearly loved.
"The end of my childhood".

"A young lady begins!

The spot that my grandmother sat in many years ago, in our many long talks. While my grandmother has gone to heaven,many years ago. Her memories and the flame from the fire is still there 50 years later

Many years later I found out that Stevie had moved to Australia, had changed his faith to be a Catholic, and died at a very young age.

I will always love you Stevie!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Little Fiddle

If you have read any of my stories you will know "Growing up in Ireland" can be hard, and now my brother the oldest had become Elvis, so he now had something, but I still had not found my place in life. My sister Frances who was the next youngest, was already as tall as me, smarter, better looking, and in my mothers eyes was a saint.
My two little sisters were still fighting for my fathers attention, which he gave them plenty of.
Even thought my name was Margaret I was never called that. I was called Sella why I am not sure, other than my confirmation name was Marcello and my brother pronounced that as Sella, so everyone just called me Sella. I didn’t even have a real name. I felt like I was just the black sheep, even though many days I loved it because I did not have to worry about failing anyone. A black sheep, is a black sheep.

Many time I would get to go spend time with my Grandmother & Grandfather. I loved being with them. I was their “Wee Lass”. Since I was the only child there I got all their attention. I didn't have to contend with my brother and sisters

Somehow one day I found it, something that made me! Where I found it I can not remember. I know I didn’t buy it because there was no money. It was “A Little Fiddle” and it had a clasp on it. I could pin it on my shirt! Since I wore the same shirt over and over I would have it with me every day. Now I was felling pretty good. I could look like a grown up!

My brother had Elvis, my one sister was a saint, my two younger sisters had my father. Now I had something too. My “Little Fiddle" maybe I could be something in life after all!

But then a very sad day came. I put on my shirt, but my little fiddle was gone. I felt so alone, I lost all my inner strength. I did not know how I would go through the day. I had grown to depend on my little fiddle. I looked and looked everywhere but no fiddle. I was alone with my thoughts again.
My brother was still Elvis and my sister Frances was still a Saint and my two little sisters were still fighting to win my father for the day.
I moved on from my little fiddle but had not forgotten it.
Then my sister Frances the saint’s school pictures came home . Can you believe it! There on her cardigan in her school picture was my little fiddle!
Now I was never a fighter at home, but I went after her not sure what I was going to do, but there was my mother with her secret weapon the broom. I ran for my life out of the house and that was the end of my little fiddle.

Many decades have passed since then and my sister has bought me a fiddle made out of gold, and a fiddle with diamonds in it, but there will never be a fiddle that will give me that inner strength that I got from that little fiddle at that time in my life.

So the moral to this story is “A saint can be sinner, and a sinners can be a saint”.

Since life is a story book I would like to give this story to my sister Frances who in my book truly is a saint, and my best friend!
"Live Your Best Life"

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Special Birthday Oct 31

This week is very special to me also sad.
Its a very special lady's birthday my Mother. I am sad because I cannot be there with her on her 90th birthday.
My mother was born to Maggie and Dan Lynch 90 years ago in a very remote part of Ireland.
There was no running water, no electric, and no school.
She loved the animal, worked the fields, and loved her land.
Happy Birthday Mother, I love you.