Alexander Averin

Sunday 2 March 2008

To Irish Mothers

Dear Diary

Happy Mother’s Day
Lá an Mháthair faoi shona dhuit

This is a tribute I accidentally stumbled across while surfing the net. However, I don’t believe for one minute in accidents, only synchronicity.

As well as to E my dear Irish mother who was taken from me when I was so very young I dedicate this blog entry to C, my dear sister, an Irish mother too, who shares with me the loss of our mother. If I could have chosen a sister I could not have found anyone more perfect than she.

I haven’t a clue who Joseph R Biden is but the words speak for themselves.

And it was hard but I have left the American spellings unchanged.

Tribute To An Irish Mother
By Joseph R. Biden

My mother Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden is the soul, spirit, and essence of what it means to be an Irish American. She honors tradition and understands the thickest of all substances is blood.

She has taught her children, and all children who flocked to her hearth in my neighborhood, that you are defined by your sense of honor and you are redeemed by your loyalty. She is the quintessential combination of pragmatism and optimism. She also understands as my friend Pat Moynihan once said, there is no “point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.”

But she is more. She measures success in how quickly you get up after you have been knocked down. She believes bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned. Failure at some point in everyone’s life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. As long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive. And you are not dead until you’ve seen the face of God.

My mother, I believe, is a living portrait of what it means to be Irish –- proud on the edge of defiance. Generous to a fault; committed to the end. She not only made me believe in myself, but scores of my friends and acquaintances believe in themselves. As a child I stuttered, and she said it was because I was so bright I couldn’t get the thoughts out quickly enough. When my face was dirty, and I was not as well dressed as others, she told me how handsome I was. When my wife and daughter were killed, she told me God sends no cross a man is not able to bear.

And when I triumphed, she reminded me it was because of others.

I remember her watching through the kitchen window as I got knocked down by two bigger guys behind my grandfather’s house, and she sent me back out and demanded that I, to use their phrase, bloody their nose, so I could walk down that alley the next day.

When my father quit his job on the spot because his abusive boss threw a bucket full of silver dollars on the floor of a car dealership to make a point about his employees, she told him how proud she was.

No one is better than you. You are every man’s equal and everyone is equal to you. You must be a man of your words, for without your words you’re not a man.
Her pragmatism showed up when I was in eighth grade, a lieutenant on the safety patrol. My job was to keep order on the bus. My sister and best friend Valerie acted up. At dinner that night I told my mother and father I had a dilemma. I had to turn my sister in as a matter of honor. My parents said that was not my only option. The next day I turned my badge in.

I believe the traits that make my mother a remarkable woman mirror the traits that make the Irish a remarkable people. Bent, but never bowed. Economically deprived, but spiritually enriched. Denied an education, but a land of scholars and poets.

When I think of my mother I think of the Irish poem ‘Any Woman’ by Katherine Tynan,

A native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joe Biden is Delaware’s senior Senator and last night was honored by the American Ireland Fund of Washington.

Any Woman

I am the pillars of the house;
The keystone of the arch am I.
Take me away, and roof and wall
Would fall to ruin me utterly.

I am the fire upon the hearth,
I am the light of the good sun,
I am the heat that warms the earth,
Which else were colder than a stone.

At me the children warm their hands;
I am their light of love alive.
Without me cold the hearthstone stands,
Nor could the precious children thrive.

I am the twist that holds together
The children in its sacred ring,
Their knot of love, from whose close tether
No lost child goes a-wandering.

I am the house from floor to roof,
I deck the walls, the board I spread;
I spin the curtains, warp and woof,
And shake the down to be their bed.

I am their wall against all danger,
Their door against the wind and snow,
Thou Whom a woman laid in a manger,
Take me not till the children grow!

Katharine Tynan

I have posted that one before, it is also a favourite of mine.

Here are a few more poems.

In Memory Of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday-
You meet me and you say:
'Don't forget to see about the cattle-'
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life-
And I see us meeting at the end of a town
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us - eternally.

Patrick Kavanagh

The Little Irish Mother

Have you seen the tidy cottage in the straggling, dusty street,
Where the roses swing their censers by the door?
Have you heard the happy prattle and the tramp of tiny feet
As the sturdy youngsters romp around the floor?
Did you wonder why the viree* comes to sing his sweetest song ?
Did the subtle charm of home upon you fall?
Did you puzzle why it haunted you the while you passed along?--
There's a Little Irish Mother there; that's all.

When you watched the children toiling at their lessons in the school,
Did you pick a winsome girleen from the rest,
With her wealth of curl a-cluster as she smiled upon the stool,
In a simple Monday-morning neatness dressed?
Did you mark the manly bearing ofa healthy-hearted boy
As he stood erect his well-conned task to tell ?
Did you revel in the freshness with a pulse of wholesome joy?--
There's a Little Irish Mother there as well.

There's a Little Irish Mother that a lonely vigil keeps
In the settler's hut where seldom stranger comes,
Watching by the home-made cradle where one more Australian sleeps
While the breezes whisper weird things to the gums,
Where the settlers battle gamely, beaten down to rise again,
And the brave bush wives the toil and silence share,
Where the nation is a-building in the hearts of splendid men--
There's a Little Irish Mother always there.

There's a Little Irish Mother--and her head is bowed and gray,
And she's lonesome when the evening shadows fall;
Near the fire she "do be thinkin'," all the "childer' are away,
And their silent pictures watch her from the wall.
For the world has claimed them from her; they are men and women
In their thinning hair the tell-tale silver gleams;
But she runs her fingers, dozing, o'er a tousled baby brow--
It is "little Con" or "Bridgie" in her dreams.

There's a Little Irish Mother sleeping softly now at last
Where the tangled grass is creeping all around;
And the shades of unsung heroes troop about her from the past
While the moonlight scatters diamonds on the mound.
And a good Australian's toiling in the world of busy men
Where the strife and sordid grinding cramp and kill;
But his eyes are sometimes misted, and his heart grows brave again--
She's the Little Irish Mother to him still.

When at last the books are balanced in the settling-up to be,
And our idols on the rubbish-heap are hurled,
Then the Judge shall call to honour--not the "stars," it seems to me,
Who have posed behind the footlights of the world;
But the king shall doff his purple, and the queen lay by her crown,
And the great ones of the earth shall stand aside
While a Little Irish Mother in her tattered, faded gown
Shall receive the crown too long to her denied.

John O'Brien

A Mother's Love Is A Blessing

An Irish boy was leaving
Leaving his native home
Crossing the broad Atlantic
Once more he wished to roam
And as he was leaving his mother
Who was standing on the quay
She threw her arms around his waist
And this to him did say

A mother's love's a blessing
No matter where you roam
Keep her while she's living
You'll miss her when she's gone
Love her as in childhood
Though feeble, old and grey
For you'll never miss a mother's love
Till she's buried beneath the clay

And as the years go onwards
I'll settle down in life
And choose a nice young colleen
And take her for my wife
And as the babes grow older
And climb around my knee
I'll teach them the very same lesson
That my mother taught to me

A mother's love's a blessing
No matter where you roam
Keep her while she's living
You'll miss her when she's gone
Love her as in childhood
Though feeble, old and grey
For you'll never miss a mother's love
Till she's buried beneath the clay

Thomas P Keenan

Bye for now.
Go mbeannai Dia duit,


Chris Stovell said...

What a lovely tribute to your mother and sister, Cait.

(Ps Duffy was tiny - you wouldn't think there was there room for that amazing voice!)

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Thanks for this Cait - as you know i too lost my Mother when I was young . . .

Pipany said...

And a Happy though belated Mothering Sunday to you too Cait. Sorry to hear you are still under the weather, but yum I love those treackly (sp) cough mixtures. We used to have one called Owbridges which you took in hot water...could almost taste it as I typed! Your tiles are gorgeous, clever UPL. xx

Wooly Works said...

Thanks for a beautiful tribute to motherhood. I lost my mother a year ago November and sometimes I still catch myself trotting over to her house to tell her something. She wasn't Irish, but she must have had the same spirit in her somewhere.

Love your blog. It's always a treat and a rest place for me.

Frances said...

Well Cait, you have written yet another beautiful blog, that has summoned lots of heartfelt comments.

I write from the States, to let you know that Senator Joe Biden is indeed a one off. You might want to look into his political career. Up until a month or so ago, he was one of the Democrat party candidates for President.

He is very well versed in international relations, and is someone who speaks from his heart, does not always edit his words (which I do like about him) and can talk for hours on end.

Happy mothers day to you! xo

Kim said...

Joe Biden is a senator from Delaware. I can tell you he meant every single word he wrote.

Beautiful tribute to mothers, Cait. I hope your day was wonderful.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Cait,

Your Diary's are such a joy to read, full of beautiful tapestry of wonderful Poems and Pictures, I love the song Ruby Tuesday.

This was a truly beautiful tribute your Mother Cait.

When I was in London I had Irish neighbours, they were lovely, full of warmth and kindness, and I used to love hearing their tales about life in Ireland.

My mother died when I was in my early twenties, and I still miss her.

I hope you had a wonderful day, and thank you for sharing with us Cait.