Posts Tagged ‘ireland’

“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”

I’ve read that quote more than once and I believe this to be the absolute truth. You all know how I feel about family. If we share the same blood/family we are members of a very special club. Ain’t nobody getting kicked out of it. Even if we no longer see each other very often.

I have more than twenty-five first cousins. But when I was a kid most lived in Ireland and some in England.

So, sadly, I didn’t share a childhood with all of my cousins. But that was just reality.

The ones who I did share my childhood with consisted of three families who lived in the U.S. like me.

They were my Dad’s sister, Rose Marie and her family in New York. In Rhode Island we had the families of Mom’s sister, Patsy and her brother, Jimmy.

Summer holidays and other times during the year were spent with the New York cousins.

Christmas, Easter, cookouts and regular Sunday visits to the grandparents were spent with the Rhode Island cousins.

Oh, what fun we had when we were young.

There were the older cousins in our (my brothers and me) age range and then a few younger ones came along in the 1970s. That was pretty exciting for us. Everyone liked babies and they were just absorbed. Welcomed into the fold.

That’s the funny thing about babies. They are not like the future in-laws who take awhile to break into the family. To be a part of the club and inner circle. Going through the initiation and all.

But a baby? Born into the family? The bouncer just lets that little bundle of joy right into the club! Like a celebrity with status. No stopping at the door, stamping its hand or questioning their right to be there. They’re totally in!

One of my baby cousins died on March 18th. John was just shy of his forty-seventh birthday. He will be interred tomorrow with his beloved mother.

I last saw him when he made the trip to Rhode Island for my Dad’s funeral three years ago. Even though it was a sad time I was really happy to see him and so many family members. These days everyone lives in different places and reunions are not always easy or frequent. So weddings and funerals are the “go to” places for the big catch ups.

John was a beautiful child. An adorable kid with a mop of curly red hair. He was intelligent and good humored. He was a nice and decent boy who grew up to be a nice and decent man.

He died young. Too young.

For the record, I think all deaths under the age of eighty are sort of tragic.

Today is no different.

John died because he was a human being. Lest we forget -we are all afflicted with that title.

A death reminds us that we are all human. Some might dodge the bullets of life. Others aren’t so fortunate and get hit head on. But we all know, really, that sometimes we just have no say or control. Our expiration date, like a milk carton, might (I say might) have been printed long ago. Even if we argue or beg that it could have been/should have been different.

It’s still tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sad.

One of the benefits of being in the cousins’ club is that there is only love. No jealousy or judgement. We’re family and are grateful for the shared and special memories. We take joy in the success and happiness of each other. We are sympathetic when one is experiencing family problems, job loss, illness and other maladies of life.

There is profound and utter sadness when we lose one of our gang.

When John was a baby I was sleeping at his house one weekend. Poor little thing couldn’t pronounce my name (Mary Beth) but he tried. In the morning I heard a little voice coming from the crib, “Maybell?”

Since then it’s been “ours” and we didn’t ever let it go.

So every year on our birthdays and other Facebook messages we used Maybell instead of my real name. Now, I’m wondering if he actually ever knew what my real name was.

Anyway, it was like we were little kids. He in his forties and me in my fifties. In a way, a simple word brought us back in time and kept us young. Even if it was for a minute. It was a shared memory.

See, because a cousin is a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

John will always and forever be a part of my childhood that can never be lost.

We will miss you, John. Rest in peace. Like one of your sisters said, “Rest is not so easy right now on this side of Heaven.”

The club will no longer be the same, little cousin.

With all my love,

Maybell

 

 

In memory of John J. Kelly

1971-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My cousin’s wife lost her grandmother the other day. She was, as they say, a good age. Ninety four.

But still. When I read it my eyes filled up.

With all the nastiness in the world that I could cry about this is the thing that finally gets me. Although I only teared up. No fits or anything. I’m just saying.

Grandmothers are special.

My paternal grandparents lived in Ireland (and I did not) so I never really knew them. There wasn’t the money to go back and forth. My maternal grandparents were also from Ireland but lived in the U.S. so I knew them very well.

I was close to my grandmother. I am her namesake.

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She was a gorgeous woman. With auburn hair and green eyes. And a lovely peaches and cream complexion as a young woman according to her cousin Tom Creaney.

I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. Not exactly sure why she keeps creeping into my thoughts. But I have some clues.

We bought that new house in Rhode Island during the winter so I still really have no idea what the landscaping will look like in the spring. But I did ask the previous owner if they planted lilacs. She said that there were some bushes in the backyard.

Yay! I love purple lilacs. We had them when I was growing up. So it’s a part of the grand scheme.

It made me remember my Nana. She was allergic to them. And there was a bush right outside her kitchen window. Where she sat a good portion of the day. Doing her puzzles, scanning the newspaper, reading letters, cutting out photos with “The Fonz” or “Donny Osmond” for me and eating her meals.

She did not own the house so she suffered instead of requesting the bush be removed.

Wish I could sit and commiserate with her until the allergy season passed.

I now walk every day in Delhi parks. I goof around on the gym equipment that the Lion’s Club has generously provided.

One day, I see a lady who looks like an expat. Maybe I will strike up a conversation. See what we have in common.

Ummm. She’s got banana curls. I cannot remember the last time I saw anyone with banana curls.

My first thought? Friendship might be a tad difficult if she is on the high maintenance side. That’s totally not my thing. I’m thinking banana curls take a bit o’ time.

I envision, “Hey, want to grab a coffee or a drink?”

Response, “Sure! In four to six hours. Gotta curl my hair!”

Okay, totally being unfair to this woman. Plus I am sure they’ve perfected that banana curl look with a simple tool.

Nancy, my Canadian friend said, “You never know!”

But it made me think of my grandmother once again.

I, too, had banana curls. My mom has the photos to prove it. Pictures documenting the before, during and after. I’d share but they are at Mom’s house. In a different country. Plus I was probably in second grade so a bit toothless. Not a good look. Makes me seem a bit off in the photos.

In the “during” photos I am seated at my grandmother’s knees. She is setting/weaving my hair with rags. Once a cotton pillow case but torn into strips that wrapped up my hair.

Wish I could sit at her knee now.

My husband and I would always invite her to join us. Even for a drive. She would say, “No thanks, you kids go on.”

I think the last time she said “Yes” was a trip to La Salette Shrine during the Christmas season. A place where there are tons of Christmas lights. That was many years ago.

Wish I could take her for a drive.

My brothers and I were reminiscing recently and talking about her. My little brother got in trouble with my Dad one day. After Nana had been babysitting us. Nothing to do with Nana. LOL. She just came up in the memory hashing.

Wish she was here to validate the childhood memories.

Anyway, she’s obviously been on my mind.

A grandmother is truly a special gift. If you still have one give her a call. Take her out. Cherish her.

You will never regret the time spent and I can pretty much guarantee that you will always miss her once she is gone.

 

 

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Mark Twain once said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

Yesterday I received a notification on my phone. From an app I’ve installed.

“Congratulations! 1000 Hours Smoke Free.”

The app “Smoke Free” isn’t responsible for me quitting. But it does reinforce that I made the right decision and I think it prevents me from sliding back into the habit. It charts how much time spent not smoking, money saved, physical changes, goals, cravings, triggers, etc.

All positives.

Quitting a decades old habit is not easy. Even if a person smoked one cigarette a day it’s still a habit. And kicking it can be difficult.

My husband told me he was quitting and I said, “I’ll stop also.”

I was just being a supportive friend to him. He didn’t ask me to quit.

I figured, “Why not? Let’s see how it goes. Maybe we will last the day.”

And we stopped.

Times have certainly changed when it comes to smoking.

Used to be everyone smoked. Everywhere!

At the kitchen table. In the bedroom. Watching television.

I remember men and women lighting up the second Mass was finished. The teacher’s lunch room in the parochial school I attended allowed smoking. When I got my first office with a door at the phone company I smoked while I worked. As did my friends who came and sat with me. At my high school lots of kids smoked on the property.  Alongside the teachers who were also smoking.

People smoked in cars, busses and trains.

I remember smoking on a plane to Ireland in 1983. Looking back I can’t imagine how the non-smokers two seats down felt.

That’s how different things were.

When the tides of change swept in it was sort of funny. You’d go into a restaurant and they’d ask, “Smoking or non-smoking?” If you chose non-smoking you were seated directly across the aisle from the smoking section.

It took years for the U.S. to create a non-smoking environment. But they did. Office workers are clustered so many feet from the entrance to their building. Airplanes have messages all over them. Campuses are smoke free. Even college campuses. Young kids are taught about the dangers of smoking at school.

My friend Mary Ann once said that smoking in some places would be akin to blowing your nose on a curtain in a restaurant. It really is that frowned upon.

I remember once having a cigarette after dining in a KL restaurant last year. You know the deal. Huddled up against the building hoping you don’t see anyone you know. Like I was smoking dope or something.

In the distance I saw one of my daughter’s teachers. I panicked and dropped it. Like I was smoking dope or something.

My daughter said, “Mom. Own it.”

I guess that’s the thing. I didn’t really own it. Because of society and its stance on smoking. I was embarrassed by it. But that did not prevent me from doing it.

I did not smoke in my car. Or in the house. But I still did it.

Even though it was a legal activity for someone my age it was verboten at just about every place I frequented.

Today I am smoke free. I do not consider myself a non-smoker yet. Maybe I feel that I  need more time to earn that moniker.

Not smoking is absolutely freeing.

I did not have to rush outside in freezing cold Boston once I got off the plane.

I did not have to go into the “smoking room” at the international airport. Which is the grossest place on earth. I felt that way even when I smoked. But I still entered.

I do not have to leave the dinner table when finished and go grab a quick cigarette.

You get the drift. It was inconvenient.

Just have to be conscious of “triggers.”

So I guess my message in this posting today is this. If you smoke and want to quit I’m here to tell you it is doable. I’m doing it.

It can be hard. We all know there are people who have/had scary health issues and they continue to smoke. It’s a terrible addiction. I know. I did it for nearly forty years. That’s a long time.

I also know loads of folks who were heavy, heavy smokers and are now happily smoke free.

It’s totally doable. And only positives will come out of the decision to quit. I promise.

One month, thirteen days and one hour……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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James Joyce once wrote, “The shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead.”

The Hill of Tara is in Ireland and was the seat of the High Kings of Celtic Ireland.

Holyhead is in Wales. If you look at a map of Ireland find Dublin and make a straight line with your finger across the water until you hit the first piece of land. That’s Holyhead.

Joyce’s message was that if the Irish people were to understand themselves and their country then they would have to leave the island.

Maybe there is some truth to that. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for him.

So here is the story I was going to write about the siblings of my great-great grandmother, Margaret Haughey. In my last posting I shared that she was the tenth of eleventh children born in the area of Lurgan, County Armagh.

For the record, I should note that most of them were born in Magheralin, County Down although some would later marry and live in the town of Lurgan. Magheralin borders Armagh, Down and Antrim.

There was a twenty-four year age difference between Margaret’s oldest brother Charles and her youngest sibling. Not at all uncommon in big families.

The family consisted of Charles, Henry, Mary, Luke, Arthur, James, Catherine, Edward, Rachael, Margaret and a male child born after Margaret.

Her oldest brother Charles married Mary Ann Leatham when Margaret was only five years old in 1845. She would soon become a very young auntie to Charles’ and Mary Ann’s two children, Arthur (1847)  and Maria (1849).

Sadly, Charles’ wife Mary Ann died in 1850 the year after little Maria was born. And Maria soon followed her mother to heaven when she died at the age of five in 1854.

That left Margaret’s big brother Charles on his own caring for his young son, Arthur.

But as many of them did back then. They kept on going.

Charles remarried. To a lady by the name Margaret McCusker and his sister Rachael Haughey married Andrew Pepper on the very same day, November 25, 1855 in a double wedding ceremony.

Other siblings married. The family expanded with lots of babies being born.

But when it was Margaret’s turn to hit the altar with her first husband, in 1863, she was not surrounded by all of her siblings. Her sister Rachael was not present at the wedding. Neither was her older brother Charles. Nor her brother Edward.

Because this is what happened.

Rachael and her husband Andrew Pepper boarded a ship to New Zealand in 1860.

Andrew PEPPER . Co Down a labourer aged 24 with his wife Rachael aged 23 & son, William John aged 2, arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand on board Gananoque’ (785 tons) 9 May 1860;left London 9 Feb 1860 under Capt Norris.

That’s a very, very long way from home. An eighty-five day journey. Rachael had another child in Lurgan named Andrew but he must have died just before they set sail.

Things might have been good for awhile in New Zealand. But who knows?

This is what happened the following year. A little more than a year after they made the incredible voyage.

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That’s tragic on so many levels. The newspaper article alone is blog worthy.

Rachael’s husband was dead at the age of twenty-five and Rachael was on her own with no family or means of support. At the young age of twenty-four, stuck in a strange land so very far from home. And no way to get back home.

Could you imagine?

But family is family. And good families do their best to help each other.

Her eldest brother Charles hopped on the ship “Mersey” in 1862 and made his way to sister Rachael in New Zealand. Left his wife and family in Ireland.

Charles’ wife and children would arrive the following year in 1863 -along with Charles’ and Rachael’s brother Edward Haughey.

Another brother James Haughey would follow with his wife, Hannah and their very large brood.

Andrew’s untimely death prompted an influx of many members of this one clan to the shores of New Zealand. This one tragedy altered the course of their futures. Altered the history of my family.

The good news is that Rachael met a fellow from Tipperary and remarried. Had a bunch of kids. The other good news is that the Haugheys all did well on the islands. They survived, multiplied and spread across the land. Loads and loads of their descendants exist now.

Sad thing is that my great-great-great grandparents Luke and Mary had to wave goodbye not just to one daughter and a grandson in 1860. They, and the other remaining family members like their daughter, my great-great grandmother Margaret, would continue waving goodbye to loved ones for the next decade. While their countless family members boarded the ships. The numerous grandchildren. Nieces and nephews. And while they were waving they also knew they’d never see any of them again. Ever again.

Maybe James Joyce’s sentence had some truth to it. Maybe the shortest way to Tara is via Holyhead. Maybe, in the end, in order to understand themselves, their family and their country, they had to leave. I don’t know. Maybe it worked for them.

Note: A fellow by the name Lyndon Fraser wrote a book titled, “To Tara Via Holyhead: Irish Catholic Immigrants in Nineteenth-century.” Some of my family’s history is documented in the book with accompanying facts and photographs. 

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Some years ago my husband and I were invited to a bookclub dinner with two other couples in California. The wife of one of my husband’s employees came up with the idea and thought it would be fun.

I was used to my Dallas bookclub that was comprised of a half dozen, wine-guzzling, loquacious females.

My friend, Karla (Dallas book club) told me that her husband said, “What kind of granola is Mary eating out there in California?” After he found out it was for couples.

Or something to that effect. Equivalent of “What’s Mary smoking out there?”

The book was “The Last Lecture” written by the late Randy Pausch.

I recommend it. Or at least watch his video. Inspiration from a man who knew that he wasn’t going to be around too much longer.

Hubby didn’t finish the book but I shared the finer points with him during the car ride.

It was a good book. Focused on the important things in life and unrealized dreams.

Had dinner and wine.

So far, so good.

Then the woman puts a pot on the table and asks that we all write down our own unrealized dream on a slip of paper. Without our names.

The six of us complied.

Then she pulled out each one and read them. We had to guess who wrote each one.

So far, so good.

First one was “I always wanted to be a veterinarian but didn’t get accepted into the program.”

Uh oh!

A little guesswork determined this was from the hostess who was currently working as a pediatrician.

Who knew medical school was easier to get into than a veterinary program?

Next was, “I wanted to be an airplane pilot but couldn’t due to an eye injury.”

That was from my husband who was a CEO at the time.

Geez. I was starting to sweat. Maybe I didn’t put too much thought into mine!

Can’t remember the others. But I’ll never forget mine.

“I always wanted to learn how to whistle.”

A lofty goal from a lofty girl.

Well, that certainly lightened the mood although that was not my intention.

I realized (after I mentally berated myself for such a simple answer) that I was the only one who had written down a goal that I could actually still achieve. If I pursued it.

No, I still haven’t learned how to whistle.

But I will devote some time to it. Right after I devote the time to training my overly enthusiastic, five year old Jack Russell named Thumper. LOL.

Hadn’t even thought of whistling for a couple of years. But discussion was prompted at a family gathering a few weeks ago when someone mentioned meeting the best whistler in Ireland.

Led to some chatting in the room. Who can whistle?

My father’s side? Apparently not so much.

But my mother’s side is a different story. My grandfather was always whistling. And his kids could whistle.

Got me thinking about it all over again. 🙂

 

Have a wonderful week while you are thinking about what you would write on that scrap of paper.

Big or small.

Then go and make it happen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another travel story from years ago.

We were in Brooklyn Heights for a New Year’s party at my cousin’s beautiful brownstone. Was a great night. One of my aunts was over from Ireland with her husband, daughter and son-in-law. Lots of laughter and good cheer. My Dad and his sister able to catch up with each other.

Walter singing “Colcannon” and others belting out “That’s Amore”, twinkling lights in the backyard garden with bottles chilling in mounds of snow.

Had an early flight in the morning so my girls and I left the gathering shortly after midnight.

Next morning. On the plane and seated behind a father and his two boys. Not toddlers but not teenagers either.

Their mother was on other side of the aisle-one row up from them.

She kept turning back and smiling at me. Not sure why.

Dad had the aisle seat with one boy in the middle. Other child had the window.

The fun started when they kept poking at each other, wrestling, kicking, etc.

Dad was ineffective with his half-hearted attempts to put it to a stop. So the seats kept banging and moving in front of us.

I am not a confrontational person. But felt like I had to say something.

Plenty of folks don’t want anyone giving them advice. Sensitive territory. I get that. I’m a parent.

So I thought about how I could stop the seats and our tray tables from shaking. Without getting into a fight.

When the Mom turned to smile at me (yet again) I seized the opportunity. I leaned in and quietly said to her, “My brothers and I were the same when we were young.”

Okay, that was a big fat lie. My parents would never have put up with that sort of nonsense.

I continued, “Know what my parents would do? They’d separate us. And put a parent in between each kid.”

There is a shred of truth to this. Sunday Mass. Bored kids. You get the picture. One poke (just one poke) at each other and the seating arrangements quickly shifted in our pew. Kid, parent, kid, parent, kid.

It was a rare occurrence but it was the only thing I could come up with to demonstrate understanding.

She said, “They’re tired. They were up late last night for New Year’s.”

I said, “Totally understand.”

While thinking, “So were we!”

Anyway, she actually took my advice. Had her husband sit between the boys.

Lo’ and behold, a miracle occurred!

The kids never moved a muscle the rest of the plane ride.

My kids and I were finally able to relax.

Weird thing is that the woman never smiled at me again. Not sure why.

 

 

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I’m a big researcher. I’m not large. I just mean that I enjoy going off on tangents and while away the time on totally random subjects.

I was recently perusing Irish Catholic baptisms that took place in Enniscorthy, County Wexford on the hunt for some record of my elusive great-great-great grandfather Peter Cassidy’s birth. He was born in the 1820s.

Driving me batty. He married a Wicklow woman but I believe he was a Wexford man. And I know he existed. Because I do.

Many hours have been spent tracing my family history. I thoroughly enjoy it and get a rush every time I make a new discovery.

But not all my learnings have been about my own kin. I’ve learned about immigration waves, mortality rates, illnesses, disease, society, religion and so much more.

Because of the tangents and randomness.

Back to me and my scrolling through the records.

It can be tedious work when you’re looking at the same old names. Mary, Catherine, Ann, Brigid, Margaret and Elizabeth. Patrick, William, John, James and Francis.

Yawn.

One gets very excited if they happen upon a Simon or an Anastasia. Just to break up the monotony.

On this day I was plugging along. And noticed in 1794 and 1795 the word “spurious” next to a few names on the baptismal register. This was the term that was used for bastard.

That changed in the following decades-at least on these registers.

I’m scouring the year 1828 and start noticing that “spurious” no longer appears. Just “Illegitimate” or “Illeg str.” beside the names.

I figured, since most listed a mother and father, that these were the results of premarital trysts and that the parents were married at the time of birth. I did, however, think to myself, “Then why bother noting it?”

Anyway, I smile when I see twins listed. Thinking those parents would have had their hands full.

Sad face when I see “Foundling” or “Workhouse” in the register.

Started noticing quite a few “Illeg.” between the years 1828-1834.

The name Magdalen started appearing in 1829 and I assumed it was a popular girl’s name at the time. So happy to see a different name.

But I saw that most of the Magdalens had “illegitimate” next to them. Again, maybe just a name that had soaring popularity at the time and a bunch of them were illegitimate.

Then I saw a few Simons baptized who were also illegitimate.

And two illegitimate Hedwigis? Latin for Hedwig. This name surprised me. I guess because it’s my cousin’s middle name (after her German aunt Hedwig) and I would never have associated it with an Irish person.

But many folks have been named after saints so I just figured maybe they were born on or around St. Hedwig’s Feast Day.

Here is a listing of all the illegitimate births in a two-year period from that parish.

 

October 31st, 1827 –Simon

November 5th, 1827- Ann

March 11th, 1828- John

April 1oth, 1828-Thomas

July 4th, 1828-Brigid

July 8th, 1828-Henry

July 11th, 1828-Aidan

July 30th, 1828-Catherine

August 7th, 1828-Mary

August 11th, 1828-Clare

October 24th, 1828-Mary Lane

October 31st, 1828-Mary

November 14th, 1828-John

November 19th, 1828-Eliza

November 21st, 1828-Charles

December 31st, 1828-Catherine

January 11th, 1829-John

February 7th, 1829-no name

February 28th, 1829-Simon

February 28th, 1829-Magdalen

March 6th, 1829-Magdalen

March 13th, 1829-Ellen

March 15th, 1829-Simon

March 24th, 1829-Mary

April 4th, 1829-Magdalen

April 30th, 1829-Magdalen

May 4th, 1829-James

May 5th, 1829-Simon

May 14th, 1829-Simon

May 18th, 1829-Simon

June 11th, 1829-Magdalen

June 30th, 1829-Magdalen

August 3rd, 1829-Brigid

August 10th, 1829-William

August 17th, 1829-Charles

September 6th, 1829-Sam

September 11th, 1829-Teresa

October 21st, 1829-Hedwigis

October 27th, 1829-Robert

December 1st, 1829-Hedwigis

Interesting stuff. At least to me. I’d read that illegitimate births were quite common in different European countries at certain times. I was just a bit surprised to see so many documented in one parish. Especially an Irish one. Of course, I have no idea of the size of this parish at that time. But still.

I did some checking and St. Magdalen of Canossa worked with delinquent and abandoned girls along with the poor and sick.

St. Simon’s not adding up unless the patron saint of lost causes (St. Jude also) angle is the key.

Of course, my first question was why are most of the babies named Magdalen illegitimate. Not all but most. After Mary Magdalene? Supposedly a fallen women?

My second thought was that this had to do with the Magdalene Laundries/Asylums. Maybe the girls were sent to these places. I also wondered if these names (Simon, Magdalen and Hedwigis) had to do with orphanages.

I really do not have any idea of what it all means. Or if it means anything at all. I just thought it was a bit odd. Maybe it is just a coincidence.

Would welcome any ideas or thoughts. Yes, Auntie Maureen, I’m talking to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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