|On the street (Knox) where I lived...as a child|
It is sweet to think I was a companion
in an expedition that never ends
A note from a dyslexic "sweet 16" to the friends of my youth and beyond...
I clapped and stomped my feet at a pub in Ballinhassig, County Cork, where we celebrated after a day's jaunt to Cork City, the Lee Valley and Blarney. After food (that never stopped coming) was served, the tables were pushed back to the walls, Sean got out his squeeze box and the music started. Sister Mary and Sister Mairead danced to Shoe the Donkey. Joan and Maureen sang a beautiful duet. Then Finbar Furey's aunt took to the floor with a song and a dance. We all joined in at the pub then continued the singing on the bus drive to Kinsale...everything from Irish drinking songs to Amazing Grace... all in various stages of harmony.
My memories of Ireland are set to music. And this particular song, Sweet Sixteen - sung by the Furey's - is especially poignant. I think of a dear, sweet little Irishman who called me his "Sweet Sixteen". I was fifty-five at the time. Whenever we met on the street, he would give me a peck on the cheek. Oh, how his blue eyes twinkled. I loved Monday nights at The Spaniard where Michael and Jimmy played and sang and Thursday nights with Liam O' at An Seanachai. Know this: whatever happens in Ireland doesn't stay in Ireland. Oh, no. A song is written and the story is sung in pubs all over the Emerald Isle and beyond. Forever.
Today my thoughts belong also to the more distant past. So much has happened in the years since I left my home in my first Irish settlement, Dublin, Georgia. With what seems a blink of the eye, the number sixteen has reversed. At sixty-one, I am astonished to find that - however dinged my chassis - I feel young inside: young at heart if old in experience. I have laid claim to the good memories and laid others to rest.
Like you, I have been challenged by life and wear some scars by now. I am thankful for ties to the past and celebrate especially those that have been renewed. Whether we connect online, at a reunion, in groups of two or three, or in memories, I hold these hopes in my heart:
... that the journey will make us stronger, not harder
... that our dreams will always be worthy
... that we'll honor each other with each choice, each thought, each spoken word
... and that we'll remember those who are no longer with us with gratitude for the time we had together
Lately, on my afternoon walk, I go past trellises filled with star jasmine and wisteria. At this age, I don't care what anyone thinks when I stick my face into the fragrant blooms and breathe in the sweetness. I'm transported to an earlier time before the real lessons started. But I know that the lessons learned (in spite of me) - lessons that brought me first to my knees, then to full face-plants - are life's conversation with me. I love the words of Lithuanian poet Czeslaw Milosz (in quotes here and below). "What has no shadow has no strength to live."
|A little closer, closer...there now. Doesn't this smell fabulous!?!!|
I do not understand this continuum but I give thanks for all the echoes. When I look up at the stars in the night sky, I marvel still that some of those pinpoints are history: light that has finally reached our good earth, eons after the star itself died. I pray that our lights shine, beyond "I and not-I".
Thank you for your birthday wishes. How uplifting two (or a few more) words can be. This has been a lovely day. The chil'ren, friends and family have written, texted, FB'd and called. Bill sang first thing. Margy texted her birthday song early and made my iPhone dance, proof that if you have rhythm (her) not even cyber space can vanquish it and if you don't (me) then nothing can make it appear. But I am a great audience! My son sent his usual greeting at midnight last night...same message, slightly different words each year. This one: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY! You are older than the Super Bowl." Son, some days I feel it in my bones...I feel it in my toes. But I wouldn't trade a single gray hair or wrinkle for the lightness of being that age has brought. I wish the same for all of you.
Now for the cake.